*Who are they for anyway? – an open letter to Panolympus

We are witnessing a new war being waged in digital photography, and we’re all winning.  On top of the leapfrogging going on in the higher end system lines, we are seeing more and more movement toward the world of smaller, mirror-less, interchangeable lens system cameras.  You may call them EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens, assuming they have an electronic viewfinder), or MILC (Mirror-less Interchangeable Lens Compacts) but however we cleverly abbreviate them, the question remains, who are these cameras for?

(*authors note:  I’ve been seeing quite a few conversations spring up based on my article here.  Firstly, thank you to those who are here and reading my personal take and I have learned quite a bit when I hear others respond which is exactly what I’d hoped to gain by asking the question in the first place.  I hope that those who are dismissing this as “whining” or that I’m somehow bashing the GH1 or any other micro 4/3 camera have actually read through it.  To the contrary, I believe that along side a larger bodied EVF included dSLR style camera, the system NEEDS to also continue to push the small form factor in the PENs and GF series as well as smaller, faster lenses, as I see it as one of, if not the most unique capability of the format.  I’m not saying one or the other, but both.  My frustration with 3 separate lines being now offered by Panny in the G10, G2 and GH1 seem a bit gratuitous where perhaps only two would be plenty sufficient and I feel has potentially pulled energy and resources away from developing the smaller GF line(or perhaps an entry level GF style cam).  This isn’t to say that there are not other benefits to an overall smaller system even with a bigger camera, just that I feel you gotta get your bread and butter before you start going after the big guys plate.  Thanks again and I hope you enjoy the read.  – Tyson)

This article is merely my take on what I see as potential directions for these systems.  As the market grows, the products need to keep up.  It is fairly long, so I feel no ill will toward those who choose to skip over it 🙂 .  For those familiar with my micro 4/3 ramblings, you probably know I really like the capabilities of my GF1 as a high quality compact system camera.  You may also be aware that I am partial to the micro 4/3 system because of its small form factor and compatibility with 3rd party lenses via adapters.  One gripe I have had, and continue to vent, is the lack of proprietary options to truly realize the system’s size benefits, along with the cost for some of the lenses being offered by Panasonic and Olympus.  Does it make sense to try and compete directly with systems that offer a better range of affordable lenses, better sensor performance and offer similar size, or, would it make more sense to compete in and essentially define this new, mirror-less arena?  Are they different enough to be separate, or are we seeing the whole of the future of digital interchangeable lens cameras unfold before our eyes?  Big fish, small pond, small fish, big pond or are we all just floating around in the ocean?  I guess I see it currently as different tools for different applications, so why try to compete for the piece of pie, when you can set up your own baked goods shop across the street?

Digital photography is at the point that we can realistically assume quality and price are coming into a balance as far as the consumer is concerned.  What $600-$800 gets you now a days would have cost three times as much a few years ago or more, if it were even available.  This is the beauty of technology.  (Remember when a 42″ plasma tv cost $4000+?)  This advancement combined with competition for photographers money, as they’re wondering where to best spend their hard earned cash, brings me to my conundrum.  Who are these new mirror-less cameras for?

It is well documented that, when talking about current technology available to us today, the larger the sensor, and subsequent size of the pixels, the better the light gathering capabilities and general image quality or ability by the sensor to record, render and reproduce light into an image file.  The technology, on a pixel by pixel level is fairly translatable, so really, the more room you have for your pixels, the better.  This said, smaller sensor sizes have their potential benefits as well.  Cost to manufacture, smaller lenses needed to properly cover the sensor, the ability to decrease the size of the camera, crop factor, etc.

The next major component to a camera system is its available lens collection.  If you buy into an interchangeable lens system, you are at least somewhat interested in different lenses I’d assume.  I know I am.

I am going to continue the article under my assumption that there are different categories we’re seeing developed (ie: P&S, compact, compact mirror-less interchangeable lens, digital SLR, etc).  I want to break down this new mirror-less subset into what I see as the demographics that are drawn to these cameras.  I’ve found that there are 3 main groups that have been addressed with these new cameras through my conversations and observations.

First, and quite possibly the group most coveted by camera companies, the point and shoot convert.  (There are many, many more compact point and shoot cameras sold than there are dSLR or system cameras remember.)  Those of us who’s digital photography has been more a documentation of event and life in general who are looking to get into a more “advanced” system as our photographic desire and interest grow.

Second, the hobbyists and more serious recreational shooters  looking to buy into a compact system as their primary system.  Probably wanting to see a full line of lenses, dedicated flashes and components that they would in any other system.  Perhaps seeing the mirror-less segment as cool newer technology and appreciate the potential it provides.  We may be interested in utilizing our “old” lenses by way of adapters for a bit of fun, but it isn’t a primary factor in our decision.

Third, shooters that don’t see a compact mirror-less system as their primary camera, but more a system to be utilized as a second system, or alternative to high end compacts providing good balance between image quality and size.   I’d also group shooters attracted to the mirror-less system for its compatibility with legacy or third party lenses as a fundamental draw into this group as well.  Basically shooters who are looking to a quality alternative to a high end compact fixed lens or point and shoot that may already have a different system they use as their “primary” camera.

Of course there will be a bleeding of these lines as many of us may be able to fit into more than one group, but for arguments sake…  Now, which of these groups will provide the largest possible growth, and which of these demographics can be marketed to most effectively?  People, interested photo-geeks especially, are usually pretty informed, or at least willing to research, read up on and play with the choices they are interested in.  (I certainly consider myself a photo-geek)  If I were in any way involved in the micro 4/3 campaign, I would be looking at a few key developments in this new photographic landscape and doing my best to play to my system’s strengths.  Sticking to the most literal and direct competitors to the micro 4/3 system (not to take anything away from high end compacts or the new Ricoh interchangeable sensor/lens cameras) I want to address the challenges that Samsung and more recently Sony have provided.

I will admit, I have not personally shot with the Samsung NX10 or either the new Sony NEX3 or NEX5 and can only base my assumptions on the reviews, articles and videos I’ve seen on line through various sources.  Both of these systems use an APS-C sized sensor which provide them with one major advantage, and one major disadvantage in my eyes.  The advantage being sensor size.  More real estate on your sensor gives you a bit more room to play with resolution, noise management, microlens engineering, etc.  The disadvantage to this is you have to produce, or make a compatible mount for larger lenses to utilize the sensor (they might be able to engineer a digital “crop” to use smaller lenses akin to Nikon’s DX crop mode on FX cameras…but, that isn’t even smoke as of yet, and probably wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense).  This is potentially bulkier, and more expensive to produce these larger lenses for the companies looking to go with an APS-C sensor.

Samsung swung for the fences and somewhat pompously claimed they were going to dominate this new class of cameras.  I think it was an interesting first try, but there is nothing about the NX10 that I see pulling me, or my money away from what else is out there.  It has done decently to compete in most facets, but as far as I have heard, or can tell, doesn’t beat anyone anywhere on any particular point.  The camera is fairly large, the AF is slow and the IQ doesn’t provide enough of a gap to really make a case against a dSLR, or comparable micro 4/3 camera.  I think Samsung’s fate will rest on it’s next step coupled with its lens line from here on out.

Sony’s new cameras look like they have the potential to really provide a challenge to the micro 4/3 system.  Panasonic and Olympus have one major advantage with the smaller sensor and subsequent flange design, being that there are very few lenses in any 35mm format that are not compatible through an adapter, with the micro 4/3 system.  Up until the Sony cameras, I would have said that size was an inherent benefit to the micro 4/3 system, but because there are so few dedicated pancake style lenses for the micro 4/3 cameras, even that is now in serious jeopardy.  Soon, you’ll be able to get the Sony NEX3 or 5 with the 16mm lens, which is smaller and lighter in most every dimension than the GF1 or EPL1 with the 20mm pancake.  Wow.  On top of that, from what I’ve seen, it appears that the high ISO performance on the APS-C sized Sony is going to trump the micro 4/3 lot.  That is trouble, but to be expected because of the APS-C sensor.  I’ve even heard that the Sony cams will soon have lens mount converters.  If that translates to any converters other than for the Alpha mount lenses, that’s an uh oh for Panolympus.

Now, the one place that I think Sony really dropped the ball, is that they are directing these cameras almost exclusively to the P&S converts with very limiting functionality for anyone desiring a more advanced photographic experience.  That tells me where most of the attention is being paid in this new mirror-less format, at least by Sony.   Hmmmmm.  Now, if I were looking to compete with this from Panasonic and Olympus’ standpoint, obviously I don’t think you can just give away the entry level, novice, P&S convert group of course, but I would attack the shortcomings of the NEX cameras.  There are a lot of dollars to compete for in that new comers category, but newcomers become more advanced hobbyists, and may very well crave more control over a new system camera.  What I would be doing in unison with the entry level though, is making the smallest, most robust, most advanced camera with capabilities to appeal to more advanced shooters who may be looking to the system for a bit of fun and functionality.

The EPL1 is a good way to address the former, with it’s automated modes and high quality jpegs straight out of the camera which can provide a P&S convert an easy to understand experience, all the while giving them a little bit of room to grow into the more advanced operations of the camera.  Panasonic’s “intelligent auto” should also be applauded here.  There are already plenty of “kit” lenses to attract the novice into the micro 4/3 system as well.  In my opinion, the GF1 and EP2 are pretty good at addressing the latter, with relatively good operational functionality for even advanced shooters.  Where then do they try to push into newer territory?  I feel it needs to be done in two places, and whether it is the micro 4/3 camp, or Sony (or maybe even Samsung) that achieve this, will provide some room for users to grow, while attracting the more advanced shooters.  These are:

First: Overall size, including lenses. First off, advanced cameras with access to a variety of proprietary lenses already exist, they’re called dSLRs.  The cameras that do not yet exist are where I direct my suggestion here.  My biggest gripe about the micro 4/3 system has been its lack of fast, dedicated, pancake prime lenses.  With the collapsible 14-42 by Olympus, they’ve done a good job at keeping a slow, kit zoom as small as I’ve seen one, but that is not a lens that will attract many advanced shooters.  It’s a good way to hook system folks, and by all means it is a good all’rounder, but to gain a really rabid following, they will need to appeal to a more unique shooting experience.  So far, the 20mm f/1.7 pancake is the only lens I’ve seen that truly offers quality and lack of size providing a different camera than what is out there (the 17/2.8 to an extent too, but it really is eclipsed by the 20/1.7).  I can buy a Rebel T2i, D5000 or K-x type entry level kit for relatively the same price as any of the most competitively priced micro 4/3 cameras and I gain a larger sensor with it’s performance, and many, many more dedicated AF compatible (and affordable) lens options.  This is why I see the “entry level” system shooters as not being the best to cater to, at least entirely.  The G1, G2, G10 and GH1 are all very cool cameras in their own right, don’t get me wrong, but for me, if I were looking to invest in a system, I would probably forgo one of these for an entry level dSLR for the reasons stated above as I’m not really gaining anything.  Size?  Not really.  IQ?  No.  High ISO performance?  Nope.  TTL Optical Viewfinder?  Huh-uh.  Full HD video?  Not any more.  You see what I’m saying.

Second: Appealing to advanced, or advancing shooters. At some point, many of the point and shooters that are buying into an interchangeable lens system are going to outgrow the more basic, automated system cameras like the NEX cameras and to a lesser extent the EPL-1 for instance.  If they’ve bought into one of these new systems as their primary system, whether or not they will crave a more advanced camera may be determined by whether or not that camera is available to them (new bells and whistles along with the ability to provide a more advanced shooting experience with more control).  Do these camera companies stand to benefit from educated photographers craving more control, or are the novice photographers going to continue to be fine with a glorified point and shoot?  I would certainly give these new P&S shooters something to aspire and grow into.  No matter what our personal photographic history, we all started somewhere and have continued, and will continue to learn as long as we are interested.  Having already invested in a particular system, these shooters can then graduate to a more advanced camera assuming it is available.  Right now, it isn’t with the new Sony system, but I’m guessing it will be soon.

Getting back to the styling really quickly, I see the Samsung approach similar to Panasonic’s in that they want to provide an integrated EVF to emulate a dSLR type experience in a relatively larger body.  It seems to have been doing well enough, but I think now it is time to realize that if people want a dSLR type camera, they will start to look to a system mirror-less or not, that has the most benefits and I don’t think either Samsung or Panasonic can provide them with that currently.  Again, from this angle, you’re competing against the big fish, Canon and Nikon, which is difficult as the entry level cameras from these two are getting more affordable, and offering more and more with each release.  I know that Panasonic has also developed the GF line, and if it weren’t for that, I think they’d be in trouble.  As for Samsung, I guess time will tell.  I see Sony and Olympus having taken a different approach making the camera as small as reasonably possible.  This, to me anyway, is a better (and certainly more gutsy) approach as it is defining a new category in form and function.  Will it pay off?  I hope so personally because this is what I would like from my compact camera.  Size, or lack of it, combined with reasonable image quality.

Play to your strengths.

Playing to this concept of size, what the micro 4/3 system CAN provide that the other systems currently cannot, is physically smaller lenses, especially in prime lenses as well as small camera bodies.  Personally, I want a quality camera that I can fit in my pocket, not another bulky camera that offers the same, slow lenses that I had with my first Rebel camera with an arguably weaker sensor (and overall system) than what I could purchase in an entry level camera from Nikon or Canon.  I see it as a step backward from where I stand.  I have already invested in a system myself though, so my primary photographic needs are being met there.  By this argument, I don’t fall into the first two categories that we discussed at the beginning.  I like the micro 4/3 system because it provides me something I cannot get in my other system.  It is different, and has the potential to continue to be different and that is what I like about it.  Am I part of the vast minority here?  Maybe, but I do think that I am part of a group, that if addressed by way of a quality compact system, will continue to grow and see it as a necessary parallel to the entry level.  Don’t neglect one or the other.

I am not a fan boy.  I am a fan of cool technology.  Whether that technology comes from Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, Pentax, Leica, Hasselblad, Samsung, Pinhole cameras or any other type of photographic technology, I like to see cool photographic tools, especially tools that are realistically made available to me in a compelling package.

The micro 4/3 system was groundbreaking at its inception, but its initial shine has been somewhat dulled as other systems have been advancing around them.  Panasonic and Olympus got my money because I found it to offer me the best bang for my buck, and showed some gravitas by literally creating a compelling new category.  To that I say well done, but now comes the part where your weaknesses will be exposed, and strengths tested.  From a consumer’s standpoint, this competition is good as we all win.  Of course, if we’ve invested substantially in a system, we would like to see the coolest new cameras and lenses come out for the one we have right?

My plea to both Panasonic and Olympus:

Panasonic: Now offering 3 different “small” dSLR style body lines that are barely smaller than a Rebel?  Really?  This is ludicrous in my mind.  Certainly one or two will do.  Please continue to advance the GF platform, perhaps integrating an EVF while keeping the body dimensions as close to the GF1 as possible (or please develop a decent accessory EVF).  Offering 14bit RAW files and adding in body stabilization would further push this onto a more seriously considered platform by more serious shooters, and wouldn’t in any way displace the newer converts.

Olympus: Please oh please have someone redesign your menus and interface.  Also, step it up to at least the 460k dot LCD screen if not a 920k screen like the Sonys are doing.  I wouldn’t think that addressing the AF speed would be a bad thing either.  Also, please feel free to look at my suggestions to Panasonic above.

To both (my rant): For the love of all that is holy, get some new, fast, reasonably affordable, small lenses to market to compliment the kit lenses you’ve already released.  I’ve been reading rumors and speculation for over a year about certain lenses that haven’t yet made it anywhere near a consumer (12/14mm pancakes, 8mm fisheye, and the 100-300 comes to mind, etc).  With digital camera years resembling those of our canine friends, it has been a while.  Also, if every current camera company can produce a cheap (sub $150), fast (f/1.8 or faster) standard prime lens, surely a lens requiring far less glass and metal can be produced for less than twice that ($300) right?  We’re not asking for the world, but when the only options are $900+ for anything other than the kit zooms or the 17/2.8 or 20/1.7, then I think it will be a tough sell to the novice.  Pricing like this would dictate a niche, higher end demographic as opposed to an entry level wouldn’t it?  If so, then please start to look at lenses that will truly appeal to those types of shooters.  My guess is an expensive, slow tele zoom isn’t quite what the doctor ordered.  Also, nurture any relationships you can with third party lens manufacturers.  The time for proprietary control over a mount is over and I think that in one year’s time, the digital photographic landscape is going to look much different than it does today.  You have a unique opportunity here with the design of the flange and mount.  Exploit that!   I understand a new platform poses certain logistical and manufacturing hurdles.  But, if they’re not cleared soon, you may not have much of a market left now that it seems everyone is going to start getting into the mirror-less game offering cameras and sensors that challenge, and look like they will offer equally as good or better performance than what the micro 4/3 system is currently capable of, pound for pound.  You ‘redefined’ photography with this new format, but now many others are shooting for it.  Use the capabilities and uniqueness available to the format, or I fear the micro 4/3 system may struggle.  Okay, end rant.

Technology is moving at such a quick pace, and if the micro 4/3 camp doesn’t start to address it’s system’s shortcomings (and quickly) and start to play to its strengths, I think  it may die on the vine.  It wasn’t quite so crucial until the announcement of the G2/G10 was immediately followed up by Sony announcing the NEX3/5.  Further exposing Panasonic’s hand and their seeming obliviousness to what is needed in this arena (admittedly by my opinion and estimation).  I’m not saying there isn’t a market for a dSLR sized camera utilizing the other benefits to the micro 4/3 system, but to have 3 different (near identical) lines to me is just poor judgment.  I would have offered a direct competitor (in form factor and size) to the EPL-1 as opposed to the G10 trying to do…what exactly that the G2 should be offering, I really don’t know?  Drop the price of the G2 line as the “entry level” and use the GH1 as your higher end.  Is there really enough of a market to have three remarkably similar cameras all within a few hundred dollars of each other?  Just silly.  I feel that Oly has done better at realizing the benefits to the system, but have yet to truly hit one out of the park.  The styling on the EP1/2 are beautiful, but the function leaves quite a bit to be desired.  Fine tune the interface, try to update the AF system, and include an LCD with decent resolution and you’re there, camera wise anyway.  Lenses really should start to show up soon, otherwise I feel it may be a bit too late.  For every potential user on the fence, the Sony and Samsung cameras provide pretty compelling alternatives, but they’re not without their own limitations system wise which is where the micro 4/3 bunch can, and in my opinion should, take advantage.

This is a crucial moment for micro 4/3 and I, along with many others I feel, will be watching Olympus and Panasonic’s next moves very closely.  Let’s see what this system is capable of offering not only to the novice, but those truly looking for a high end, fun to use interchangeable lens compact.  Will I continue to buy into the micro 4/3 system, or will my GF1 eventually be retired as a sensor attachable to lenses I have already purchased for other systems via adapters?  As is, I’m a little worried but I do have faith in a partnership that developed such a compelling idea initially.

Looking forward to the next step,


44 thoughts on “*Who are they for anyway? – an open letter to Panolympus

  1. Pingback: Olympus and Panasonic rumors » Blog Archive » An open letter to Panolympus (by Tyson Robichaud)

  2. Your identification of three market segments is spot on. Olympus and Panasonic are remiss in that they are developing a generic micro 4/3s camera, rather than producing variants for the various types of user. Sony is remiss in that it, so far, is only really producing cameras for one of the market segments.

    You may be interested in my post:


    I’ve also done a comparison of the sizes and weights of some of the mirrorless cameras paired with various lenses:



    • Great read Martin. I want to go back through it again tomorrow as my eyes are starting to cross and I need to get some sleep.

      I think that it will be crucial to cater to both the entry level and advanced level myself which I see Sony now will have to offer at least a 3rd new camera to do that. I want to see not only a catering to a more advanced shooter, but a wink to the niche shooters in the way of an array of quality, fast pancake lenses.

      Go old school and shoot prime folks, it is a great way to enjoy this system! 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to comment man.



  3. Well said, Tyson, I agree entirely. I’ve been pondering a 4/3rds camera, but am about to conclude that for the moment, I’m better off upgrading my primary DSLR and waiting and watching awhile longer.


    • asiriusgeek,

      I will say, from a personal standpoint and from personal need in a camera system, I probably wouldn’t invest in micro 4/3 as my primary system because of the limits it may put on my shooting by not offering the lenses that I would need (or want). I would say however, I would very much regret it if I hadn’t bought the GF1 now knowing what I do about it. For what it provides, an easy to carry, high image quality, decent low light performing camera that I can literally bring with me anywhere. I couldn’t get by without it.

      It all depends on your needs, desires and budget 🙂



  4. I agree with many of your points, but there is one additional category of people that will be attracted to these smaller cameras. People that have been shooting with traditional video or film cameras and are interested in an alternative with large sensor. I am one of those people. The only reason I decided to buy a micro 4/3 is because of the new features in the Panasonic GH1. Otherwise, I would have bought a new Canon or Sony semi-professional video camera. I agree with your point that the G1, G2, G10, and NX10 don’t offer much beyond a Rebel, but don’t put the GH1 in this category. For a serious video/film shooter, the GH1 provides huge value in a small package with interchangeable lenses and large sensor. The only comparable cameras are the 7D and 5DII, which are much more expensive, much larger, and arguably more difficult to use. So, Panasonic succeeded in providing a more compact alternative to traditional video cameras with extra features. They should be applauded for that! I can’t wait for the GH2 to be announced and the AG-AF100 will be available at year end for the true professional film maker. I like the body format of the GH1 and hope that it continue. An eye level viewfinder is essential in video and I do not like the add on contraptions of the GF1 or Olympus cameras. I even hate taking pictures using the rear screen. When using the eye level finder, you can hold the camera properly with left hand under the lens, right hand on the grip, and arms tucked in. I think the GF1 and Olympus cameras encourage poor camera holding style and result in more blurry pictures and shaky video. So, to Panasonic, please keep the GH line of cameras exactly the way they are froma body format perspective. Just add better sensors, processing, etc. You have a real winner here.


    • Hi Norman,

      Thank you for your point. I’d not really considered the video capabilities on its own merit. Like I’d said, I have nothing against the GH1 (or G1/2/10, etc), and feel that it is smart to offer a camera with a built in EVF, but to have 3 separate lines of very similar spec’d cameras seems a bit unnecessary. I guess I see the future of the GH line as a higher end dSLR style for those who prefer it, and the G line as the ‘entry level’ camera. That I’d get behind. I guess the combination of lens mount converters opens the platform up to some great lenses for video as well. What kinds of lenses are you using for video work? I know Panasonic has gone to great lengths with the silent AF operation and IS capabilities to be utilized for video, but I see the current crop of slow lenses as being extremely limiting. I admit though, I am not a video guy so maybe slow lenses are fine for video. I am curious to see how the 4/3 sensor is updated in future iterations. Personally, I’d love to see a decrease in pixels if that provided better low light performance but I doubt that will happen.



      • Yes, I too think it is going overboard to have three DSLR style body models in the lineup. One high end model and a low end model would be adequate. If the GF2 has a built in EVF as is rumored, then it may only make sense to have the high end DSLR style model.

        As to what lenses I use, I have the 14-140 kit lens, the 20 pancake, the 7-14 zoom, and the 45 macro. When the 100-300 comes out, I will buy that too. I would consider my lens kit complete at that stage.

        I mostly do bird and other wildlife video and photography. The long telephotos are very important to me and the thought of having an equivalent 200-600 mm zoom with image stabilization makes me drool. I also have a stable of older Pentax lenses from my previous film camera that I occasionally use, but mostly like the micro 4/3 native lenses for compact size.

        The lens I pull out for really far away bird video and photography is a Century Precision 500mm f4.5. This lens was originally made for Hollywood movie studios and is the sharpest non-ED lens that I know of. Bought it at bargain price of $200 off E-bay. On the micro 4/3 it is like having a 1000mm f4.5! I sometimes combine this with the high quality 1.4X or 2X Pentax L teleconverters for really close shots. Pictures and video of the moon with this lens and the 2X converter are amazing and fill the entire frame! A heavy duty tripod is absolutely necessary with this lens.

        So, I have been having lots of fun with the micro 4/3 system and really like the ability to shoot both video and photos. I grew up shooting photos and transitioned to video later. Now, I am rediscovering photos. They both have their place and it is great to be able to shoot both with one camera and set of lenses. The quality of photos may be less than full frame or APS-C, but the video is outstanding, especially in low light.

        Thanks for your opinions and response!


  5. I agree with most of what you’re saying. I don’t understand the intended market segmentation between the G2 and the G10 either, but I do hope Panasonic continues to throw new technology at the GHx platform.

    I don’t agree with you that the IQ isn’t there for the GH1 as compared to other DSLRs. At low ISO settings, the IQ is on par with some of the better DSLRs out there. Certainly the ISO performance isn’t up to par, but that’s something Panasonic is working on (as evidenced by the improved ISO performance of the G2), so they’ll catch up. I also don’t know if you’ve had a chance to use the GH1 EVF, but it’s no slouch. It’s also larger than most DSLRs, and it’s honestly not all that noticeably slower than optical viewfinders. The video on the GH1 is quite good as well. As for the size, it’s not about the camera size, which like you said is not THAT much smaller than other DSLRs. It’s a matter of the system size, and THAT is significant. So basically the only major shortcoming of the GH1 is ISO performance, and I suspect we’ll see a huge improvement in that respect with the GH1 in a few months.

    Personally I’m hoping to see the GHx line eventually become something akin to a mini-5D2 – all the benefits of the MFT format with the pro-level build, IQ, and system lenses. Perhaps we’re only 18 months away from something like that. If that comes to pass I’ll gladly shell out a few grand for it. Fingers crossed.


    • Hey Spanky,

      Thanks for the read and comment. I don’t particularly compare cameras IQ at native, or low ISO as I can even get great image files out of many of my older compact small sensor cameras laying around at ISO 100 or 200. If someone is shooting at low ISO at all times, then yes, I don’t feel the larger sensors have much of an advantage in that sense. I do think that both the Panasonic and Oly sensors do wonderfully at low ISO, but the photographic reality now is cameras need to start to produce at least decent IQ at higher ISOs as most all current competitors do. I’ve felt that ISO 800 really is the highest I’d push the Panny with the anticipation of printing anything larger than about 4×6″ as my experience with 800+ is that I need to apply noise reduction a bit too gratuitously which degrades the quality and sharpness a bit too much for my taste. I do enjoy pushing the ISO higher than 800 and printing in black and white though, as I like a bit of grain (and chroma noise isn’t an issue).

      The GH1 EVF is beautiful, and I certainly think that they should offer an accessory EVF with similar resolution for the GF line, but when it comes down to it, when push comes to shove, I will take a through the lens, optical viewfinder 100% of the time and my personal purchases have shown that. This is why, to me, I see the system as a second, compact camera, not my primary system. I know that both Panasonic and Olympus have built some beautiful cameras here and in no way mean to take anything away from them. I guess my point is, they have the ability to offer something different, and different to me is a smaller, quality system camera. I think they can continue to offer the G and GH line cameras for those that want video and a fairly small system camera, but to me I see the real way forward in defining the segment is to push into the small form factor arena. I know that the GH1 will compete with a T2i/550D for instance, pretty well on most fronts, but now, you are having to compare the pros and cons vs a very high quality, well established system, where when producing a GF or Oly Pen type camera, you are creating something that has not existed before and therefore get to do more dictating where the format goes by writing your own rules. Global sales of the Pens and GF1 have propelled Oly and Panny into new territory. That to me is the direction I’d go in first, and it wouldn’t be too hard to translate any of that technology to a larger body with built in EVF for those wanting that type of camera also.

      As for the GH1 as a 5DII mini, I think it already is in most every way (but so are the D90, T1i, T2i, etc), and I feel the limitations of the sensor size will never be able to compete pixel for pixel against a full frame like the 5DII. If you are willing to pay a few grand for a GHx, why not get a 5DII I guess would be my thought. This is why I think Pany/Oly should be looking to carve out their own niche as opposed to trying to compete directly with systems with more resources and more established systems primarily.

      I think we’re all excited to see what the future holds, and I’m interested especially to see how the mirror-less world grows. Exciting times!



      • Tyson, thanks for the reply! I think we’re pretty much on the same page on most points, and it goes to show how subjective opinions on gear can be depending on how people use them. For someone like me who spends most of their time shooting below ISO800 a comparison of higher ISO numbers has less value. I’m likewise excited to see what the future holds.

        A quick note on the GHx as a mini-5D2: while I’m willing to pay a similar price for the camera body as for an actual 5D2 (I may get a 5D2 in any event), I’d argue that the overall system price would still be much cheaper given the flexibility of the MFT format to use a bunch of my existing legacy lenses. I wouldn’t be able to do the same with the 5D2 even with a shaved mirror mod, so the system cost would be MUCH higher for the Canon body beyond just the camera body cost. Additionally, the GHx system would still be a LOT smaller to carry.

        So absolutely I’d spend a couple of grand on a GHx body if it was able to somehow offer similar DR, tones, ISO performance. I realize that it would never equal the performance from a FF sensor, especially in terms of DOF control, OVF, super high ISO performance, but I’m willing to live with some of those limitations. I do now, I bet others would as well. There IS a market for a high-end GHx line, and given the direction Panasonic has been taking I bet something like that is on the way.


      • Hi Spanky, I do not disagree. I would not be surprised to see the GH line really push the platform to its limits, and I feel that it certainly should (and hope it does). I just hope that they also give equal focus to the GF line (or similar) using the lack of size capable of the system as a motivation to advance the platform in that direction as well. No reason both cannot (or should not) be done as the GF1 has been a major seller. There are adapters (albeit not as many) to adapt lenses to the 5DII as well, and there are more and more lenses being developed for use with these new HD-dSLRs as video has really become quite a large draw. I didn’t personally see it when the 5DII came out (video in a still camera?), but wow, I admit that I was wrong. The same may be entirely true with the micro 4/3 with the introduction of the new dedicated vid cam and the GH line. Dollar for dollar though, for proprietary lenses, an established system like the canon (or nikon) system offers users so much more right now. Again, for serious videographers, I would think that a little extra weight wouldn’t be as much an issue when the trade off is a more accessible proprietary system and larger sensor, etc. Not to say that the micro 4/3 is not capable of professional results, just when compared shoulder to shoulder, I think the trend has gone to the larger sensor, larger system cameras. Admittedly, I’m not a video guy. The micro 4/3 system is still pricing their lenses so much higher that the nearest “equivalents” which is what is concerning to me (I’m talking about f/4-5.6 zooms). I feel that f/2.8 or faster zooms may be on the horizon, but then we gain weight and bulk. This is totally fine if the system is providing the answer to all other needs, but plays away from my desires to see it used as a quality compact system. My plea was to show us that both the slow zooms AND fast primes were being brought to market. As of now, they’re still only “roadmap rumors.” I understand the system is in its infancy so some of the R&D costs need to be recovered initially before we start to see some of that trickle down to the consumer lens cost wise, on top of that global financial markets and monetary valuations aren’t really helping either. Regardless, I think that Panasonic and Olympus have got a great head start in the mirrorless market, but with the introduction of the G2/10, I was a little befuddled as to the overall direction at least Panasonic were taking it. I want to see the platform compete and continue to grow, but to do that, in my opinion, requires not only an advancement of the GH type of line, but a really heavy charge on the size side of the coin as it truly offers something that other systems cannot, well until the Sonys were announced. I think looking at Panasonic the LX3 is a good example. They do a good job at putting out a camera that does well to hold its ground for a while, but I feel they wait a bit too long between releases which offers other companies to start to take more of the share as people start to upgrade, or get into a more advanced camera. I’d like to see them avoid this same direction with the GF line. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

        Thanks again for the conversation. I am gaining great perspective from all of you guys.




  6. You’ve really summed up the situation very well. I have been dragging my meet for months now on buying a 4/3s, it just seems like nothing is a perfect fit, the GF1 seems pretty close to ideal but it’s really tempting to wait on the next model which would hoepefully have a better viewfinder and in-camera IS. Now Sony has come along and made my decision that much harder! Well sort of, anyway. As you say, they really flubbed by not offering a serious amateurs version with a lot of manual controls. It’s really tempting to see some more APS-C micro cameras though so I hope there will be some coming soon. Maybe a NEX 7 with aperture/shutter/ISO controls for around $900 with a lens?


    • Hi Claude,

      I’m sure we can all agree that there will never be one camera that does everything (not offered at sub $1k anyway 🙂 ) but there are many that do quite a bit. To me, it is much like the trade offs I’ve made when I carry the GF1 around instead of one of my other cameras, or the trade offs of carrying one of my other cameras and leaving the GF1 at home. Different tools, with different skill sets. I think the next NEX is already being bandied about so I doubt we’ll be waiting too long. Again, I think that the full system is the big picture. Without a system of lenses and compatible components, it’s just a neat one (or maybe 2) trick pony. No point in a system camera without a system I guess. Once we start to see these things being announced and produced, it will go a long way in showing us where they plan to take their respective systems. This is what has me a bit bummed from Panoly. I’m not a fan of slow zooms, so the current (and most of the proposed) lenses do nothing for me unfortunately. I am only one guy though, so I have been very curious as to how happy the system has been making other folks. For me, the fact that I can use a bunch of EF and FD lenses on my GF1 has kept me pretty happy though, and I do absolutely love the 20mm f/1.7, it is a great little lens.

      I do like that you dragged your meat though!




  7. Here’s how to build a mirrorless camera.

    1) Take a dslr and take out the mirror box and leave the flange back distance exactly the same so all the legacy lenses can still be used

    2) A port for an OPTIONAL EVF but make the LCD as bright as possible with anti-glare coating and maybe even a shade.

    3) There is no three….


      • I understand. Because the first mirror less cameras out of the gate had a shorter flange back distance so they could manufacture a whole set of new lenses for people to buy — lenses that are only a few oz. less in weight and a few mm less in size — then it’s heresy to suggest a more sensible design. Like a design that would preserve the use of legacy lenses. A design that would be just as light and possibly only mm larger in one dimension and smaller in the other dimensions.

        Out of one pre-programmed way of thinking and into the next pre-programmed way of thinking.

        And I think those pancake lenses are really too soft. You might as well go with a standard compact point and shoot. So if you really want to save weight and size, there’s plenty of good options now — like the lX3 or G10/11.

        The current batch of M4/3 cameras are really not worth the money given the cost of the new lenses that you would have to buy.


      • One major benefit to the m4/3 mount design though is it’s compatibility with most any 35mm lens ever created. I know it may not be a big deal for many, but it has opened up a whole new world for me. I can grab amazing legacy lenses on the cheap and have a whole new photographic experience. Big boon for me.

        This is why I think that Sony really could have done better. Why not diversify an existing line giving benefit to the users of your dSLR line as well? Wouldn’t every Sony user win? You could then develop full frame (or APS-C) compatible pancake, or smaller lenses to compliment the new small mirror-less system. Maybe Nikon or Canon will pick that up…

        I don’t know if you’ve shot with the 20mm pancake, but it is far from soft. That thing is a beaut. Even wide open it provides sharpness to rival any other prime lens I have wide open.

        I would agree with the compact vs mirror-less comment with the exception of decent performance at higher ISOs. I sold my LX3 because it was a dog in low light which had me leaving it at home when I wanted to have a small camera with me, and not having to lug my 5D around. I guess the current offerings being, or not being worth the money is subjective. To me, the GF1+20mm is well worth what I paid when I looked at the alternatives. The other lenses right now being offered are not, again to me at least. Hence my plea.

        I guess it’s down to need, desire and budget for any individual.


      • Budget is the main thing for me. I don’t have the luxury of just abandoning an expensive (for me) piece of equipment — or selling for a loss. I have to choose carefully and expect to keep using what I buy for years.

        And for me the M4/3 model doesn’t do what I need done — the lenses are too expensive and the size is not that much different than a good, small DSLR like the Pentax k-x. Or one of the small Canon DSLR’s.

        I can’t get excited enough about the reduction of a few oz of weight or a few mm of size.


      • Ken,

        This is exactly what started me thinking about writing this very article. I know with the micro 4/3 system we save ounces and millimeters when directly compared to a rebel, or k-x type camera, which can be substantial enough for many shooters, but at the prices, and with current lens offerings (and lens rumors) I guess I didn’t see where the system would have justified a nod over an entry level dSLR for me if I were just buying into a system. At the expense of other material things in my life, I’ve invested in multiple systems to provide me with different tools, and I don’t expect many photographers to allocate their disposable income the same way as I do, so I really have been curious to hear how others are enjoying and benefiting from the micro 4/3 platform. That said, I do love my GF1 and still do not feel I could have a better (currently available) camera in my pocket, for me at least.




  8. Tyson, your analysis is generally very good, but I part ways with you on the size issue. In 2008 I jumped on the Panasonic G system, because I was giving up 35mm Nikon SLR for good, had very good experience with the Lumix FZ__ superzooms, liked the FX_ compacts, and felt I could get into a system offering a great compromise between performance and portability. I am generally very happy with my experience and have all the Panasonic lenses except the 14-140mm. The 14-45, 20 and 7-14 are exceptionally good. The 45-200 OK. I can pack all this gear, plus bounce flash and several other accessories in a belt pack, and go off travelling with ease. Given the features and performance of the G_ I do not resent the body size – a GF_ sized body, even with built-in EVL and swivelling LCD would have poorer ergonomics.

    In addition I use several Nikon MF/AF lenses all the way up to a AF 300mm/f2.8, as well as the odd Leica, Canon, Pentax and Minolta lens. I really find the G body excellent to use, especially on a tripod with remote shutter release – I cannot see any advantage in a smaller body.

    At the end of the day, it is the bulk and weight of your lenses which will limit the portability of the system, not the bodies.

    As to image quality over a large dynamic range I do find the current m4/3 sensor weak, but believe that future generations of the sensor will deliver the quality I want. When the scene DR is small, and illuminance high, the current sensor delivers excellent results. Samsung and Sony will grab significant market share, but my money is staying with the Panasonic and Olympus lines.


    • pdc,

      I think you are a perfect example of my second suggested demographic and I think you are one of the main targets for this type of a system. If you are happy with the available lenses and cameras, then I believe it is a perfect mate for your photographic needs.

      I agree with your comment regarding bulk and weight of lenses limiting the portability of the system, not the bodies. This assumes that one would be happy with the micro 4/3 as their primary system, and all that it provides by comparison to a different system. Me, I wouldn’t be carrying the current m4/3 lenses around aside from the 20mm (and I would like the 7-14mm) because the others do not offer me the tools that I would want to use. An old EF75-300 f/4-5.6 lens that I’d had from my old film days is by all measurements, not much larger nor heavier than the 45-200 panasonic. Maybe a little bit, but I think it is negligible. I guess, to me it is moot, because I wouldn’t bring this lens out anyway because I feel it is too slow for my needs. Just me, as I know many people get many miles from these types of lenses and hence my curiosity on who is being marketed to, and benefiting from the decisions being made. Different strokes for different folks.

      Me, I want a quality camera that I can put in my pocket, and I can do that with the GF1 and 20mm combo. I had that combo in the back pocket of my shorts today as I went for a walk. This is what I want. If I am going to be bringing multiple lenses, I don’t really mind a bit of extra weight as I see it as a decent trade off for the quality that I gain from the lenses and cameras I’ve invested in as my primary system as they provide versatility and quality that I cannot get as readily from the GF1. Different tools as it were.

      So, that said, I get that the size isn’t as big an issue for the body to you, but for me it is. I really appreciate your comment and thanks for taking the time to read through my lengthy ramblings. I like getting to really hear from others using the system.




  9. Well said. I troll the sites periodically looking (praying) for faster lenses for my GH-1. That said, I still am very glad I bought the Panny, as the overall kit is far more luggable than the DSLR I was considering. Hi-Def video was a clincher for me. It really is the easiest to use.


    • Jimbo, I think you are not alone in being very happy with the GH1. I’ve heard nothing but good things from GH1 users, and at the end of the day, it does not matter what anyone thinks about the camera other than the one shooting with it. Have you looked at some older legacy lenses? There are tons of fast primes out there for very cheap. Of course you’d need an adapter, and would have to manually focus, but it is one major benefit (in my opinion) and one of the major reasons I bought into the micro 4/3 system. I was a little doubtful after using my EF lenses as I wasn’t having great luck with manually focusing. It made sense when I realized that they were built and geared for fast AF operation. Older glass that was built for manually focusing is much easier to focus with.

      Thanks for stopping in and reading through.




  10. Am I the only one to miss a wireless flash control in Panasonics m43 camera range!?! I really can’t understand how people in general put so little importance in flash technology. A camera system having good to excellent available-light-capabilities is one good thing, but a state-of-the-art image sensor, a performant noise reduction and – last but not least – fast lenses aren’t the answer to all photographic situations where light isn’t abundant!

    There are still a lot of situations in life where:

    1. there is no natural/available light at all

    2. available light lits the scene so crappily that you’ve got to add artificial light

    3. one has to precisely direct the light

    that a performant flash system is really needed. Many of the worlds best photographs (even stunning outdoor pictures in the National Geographic magazine) have been shot making the use of flash systems. Every professional knows of the importance of perfect flash lighting. Only the amateurs still think of flash light as a “mood killer” and just want fast lenses. This is so narrow-minded!

    So for heavens sake, stop always bragging for fast lenses! Please brag for fast lenses **AND** performant flash systems!!! Both are complementing each other and while we are talking about fast lenses, don’t forget too that we not only need fast primes, but fast zooms would be nice too (how about a halfway compact 35-100/f2.8 for the m43-system?!?)…


    • Hey Mumbly,

      Wireless flash control is available in the micro 4/3 system. I use it all the time. In fact I use two different methods.

      first: pocket wizards. (I am the type of guy that would need to be offered one hell of a camera if it omitted a hot shoe. Even in my compact cameras.)

      second: I use my on camera flash on the GF1 to optically fire my studio lights. Even easier, but not very practical when just out and about.

      Fact of the matter is, it isn’t always practical to use wireless, off camera flash, and it is true that most on camera flash is pretty unflattering. This is a limitation for all cameras. One suggestion I would make (and have played around with) is creating homemade diffusers for on camera flash. White nylon, tissue paper or even a semi-clear plastic cup have all helped me out in a pinch. I’ve even used colored paper, or gels to produce a color cast. It’s fun.

      To me, image stabilization and flash are in no way replacements for a large maximum aperture period. IS does nothing to stabilize moving, breathing subjects and flash can often make balancing ambient light about as much fun as shaving with a lawn mower, but if I have a fast lens and good high ISO performance, I can shoot a fast enough shutter speed in low light to not have to rely on either one, or have much more leeway when introducing my flash for fill. Fast (f/2 or faster) lenses will usually need to be offered as prime lenses, which also, in my opinion really plays to the size benefit of the m4/3 system when offered as pancakes or at least smaller lenses.

      thanks for the comment,



      • Sorry Tyson, but I disagree with you on all the line. Let me explain why:

        1. What you describe (pocket wizards, remote studio flash firing) is **NOT** wireless flash control, but only wireless flash triggering. The problem with wireless flash triggering is that the remote flash unit and the camera have usually to be set to manual mode. This means that you have to determine the correct flash exposure with a hand-held flash meter, set the proper aperture setting on your camera or rely on luck (for amateurs) resp. experience (for professionals). As an experienced photographer you will know that a wrong aperture setting will lead to over-/underexposure of the main subject while the shutter speed will influence the brightness of the background. An amateur will eventually not be aware of this and would be happy to have real wireless flash control as one can leave the camera and the flash unit in full auto mode and still get correctly/perfectly exposed pictures. This also comes handy for the professional who hasn’t got the time to make the appropriate setting. AFAIK the Olympus E-P1 is the only m43-camera to offer real wireless flash control and people who have used this function (also available on FT-cameras and some other camera systems) don’t want to miss it anymore…

        2. Cameras with really performant flash systems do produce flattering pictures even when using the on-board flash. It’s just a matter of balance between ambient light and flash light. I do own a FT-camera (Olympus E30) and will switch to m43 in due time, but I have to admit, that other camera- resp. flash-systems (especially Canons E-TTL-II- and Nikons iTTL-system) have a **FAR** better flash exposure than Panasonic and Olympus. The only problem remaining with on-board flash is frontal light, but in terms of exposure, built-in flashs can do really better with the appropriate technology!

        3. I’m personnally not a fan of flash diffusers. I tried different solutions in the past (from Lastolite to StoFen and even self-made solutions), but all diffusers do eat a lot of light (you loose at least 2 stops) for just a little gain in softness.

        4. I didn’t say that flash and/or IS are a replacement for fast lenses! But as fast lenses are **NOT** the universal solution to all situations where light is sparse, they are complementary features which do IMHO belong in every advanced camera. So on the other hand, fast lenses resp. large maximum apertures are no replacement for performant flash systems too! There are still a lot of low-light situations where fast lenses won’t help much and in those situations, it is good if one can rely on a performant flash system and/or IS. And if the flash system is really performant, it will make balancing ambient light really easy (as E-TTL II and iTTL prove it in a very impressive way). So relying on fast lenses alone is IMO the wrong way; a good camera should offer a performant flash system and an effective image stabilisation so that the photographer can – depending on the specific situation – choose which solution (fast lenses, flash, IS etc.) or combination of these solutions is the most appropriate for the given situation!!!


      • Hi Mumbly,

        I understand. I think that a dedicated, proprietary flash control system akin to the Nikon CLS or similar is a bit much to wish for from the micro 4/3 at this point mainly because it will require the system to back it up. That’s not to say that compatible wireless TTL flashes are not going to become available for the system (I believe there is no way for the current system flashes to be capable of communicating TTL info wirelessly) but I don’t think that will be as urgent an issue seeing that the system is still trying to get a decent lens line manufactured. I’ve been wrong before, and I’m sure I will be again but I don’t think this is a major priority for Panny or Oly right now.

        I guess it comes back to who the system is for. I don’t see the major market for the micro 4/3 being professional studio, editorial, sport and event photographers. It just isn’t the optimal system for those types of shooting. Can someone shoot studio, or sports, or a wedding with a micro 4/3 camera? Sure, and I’m sure someone somewhere is, but it’s far from an overwhelming part of the micro 4/3 pie. This is kinda why I wrote this. I want to know who the system is really being targeted to, and I feel it is best served by not trying to directly compete with more advanced, established systems. Create your own pie all the while slowly chipping away at the competitors by offering compelling alternatives.

        I guess regarding diffusion, it’s horses for courses. I pretty rarely use any bare bulb flash, either direct flash on camera, or off. I have purchased speedlights and monos that have the power to adjust for any light eating by my diffusers, modifiers, gels, etc. I would prefer to adjust my FEC and diffuse light in most cases, especially direct, on camera flash. I prefer manual control as I’ve become much more used to it and my type of shooting can usually stand the little extra time it takes to adjust, plus it gives me the ability to make them do what I want as opposed to hoping I’ve set the TTL system up to know what I want once it’s metered and measured my scene. Some shooting situations require a more automated system, and I sure wouldn’t mind it, but I get by as I always have with what I’ve got available to me.

        There is no universal solution. That is what makes the challenges of photography so fun. My take on fast lenses is, I can always stop a fast lens down. I can only open a slow lens up so much. I prefer to have the tools available to me so that I can choose if and when to use them at my disposal. I also have invested in a flash/strobe system that further enables my tool set. When out and about, I’m not usually dragging flashes around with me, so I will do what I can to get what I need exposure wise, and a large aperture further enables me to work with ambient light. I completely understand that not everyone has the same needs or preferences as I do, nor do I ever say that others should. But, I do want to see this system start to offer a very versatile component in the way of fast lenses. It is a quick and easy way to provide a diverse foundation from which to build the system further (look to most any system and there are very affordable, fast prime lenses). At that point I think we can start to more realistically hope for the other cool features like wireless TTL metering and flash control, etc.

        Thanks for taking the time to continue the chat. I do appreciate it!




      • Oly epl1 has wireless flash control. It will likely be on all future Oly m43 cameras, and hopefully it will be on all next-gen m43 cameras.


  11. great read. i agree with you 100%. my issues right now with m43 (I just purchased the GF-1, and previously owned the 43 system which I sold) are:

    — the desire to gouge the consumer early on, instead of pricing the system reasonably to build a large user base.

    they should look at Sony’s success with the PS2, and their mistake with the PS3 (and Wii and XBOX 360’s success). Sony built the PS2, was a cheap and good system. The PS3 was priced way upmarket, and people opted for the XBOX 360 or Wii, cheaper systems. The xbox 360 also was out longer with more games.

    I think, especially with Sony and Samsung coming into the market, Panolympus should lower prices, build a user base, and get 3rd party support as you mentioned. once they sell a bunch of bodies, they can have larger numbers of lens sales and body upgrades later. if no one owns m43, well, it doesn’t matter what the price is. It’s very hard to dislodge any company that owns a large part of the market.

    — you are 100% spot on – they fail to see their niche. Personally I see m43 as the equivalent of a small rangefinder cam, as many have said, for travel / street shooting. similar to, of course, leica M, but also like the rollei 35, konica s3, nikon 35Ti, konica hexar, etc (but of course with interchangeable lenses).

    I’m dumbfounded by the 45mm 2.8 macro leica for $900. maybe i’m stupid, but is there really a large market for people wanting a m43 camera for serious macro photography and spend $900??? why is this one of the first prime lenses to come out, instead of a wide angle pancake? I’d get the canon or nikon 105mm macro w/ IS / VR for that. Now, a 90mm equivalent portrait lens for $400, that I can buy.

    m43 is a prime lens system. if i wanted big range zooms, or fast zooms, i can go dSLR. the size of the body of a dSLR is irrelevant once you put on an 18-200 zoom, or a fast 2.8 zoom. so there’s no advantage in a small m43 body w/ large zoom.

    where are the wide angle pancakes? compact, light portrait primes? or even a collapsible prime telephoto around 135mm equivalent?

    — fear of empty promises…

    the reason why I sold the 43 system is that, though the optics were great, i felt that the sensor did not match the optical performance. promises of a new high end body never materialized. and now, with m43 taking off, i didn’t think 43 was going to expand.

    now, with m43, if they lose their momentum, i’m not sure how much R&D panolympus will continue to do for the lenses I want. look at the olympus 100mm macro for 43 – never happened.

    I think that they should start showing some progress on these promised lenses. otherwise, i’ll hold onto my cash and see how that market shakes up. maybe a nex7 with 3 pancakes is in my future…

    thanks for the article. great read!


    • Hi Oly-Oly-Oly,

      I think you and I share quite a few opinions on our hopes for the future of the system. From the moment the first rumblings of the Oly digital Pen started and the GF1 specs started to leak, my first thoughts were directed toward a poor man’s pocketable Leica type camera. The fact that I can use so many legacy lenses and play around with a more manual experience in a relatively inexpensive (comparatively speaking anyway) camera, I was intrigued. I think that Panasonic has not fully exploited its relationship with Leica either. I know that Leica has ‘announced’ it would not be entering the micro 4/3 realm, but I hope that the joint venture between the two for lenses and compact P&S cameras continue as hopefully more of that will bleed into new lens development. If you have a working relationship with one of the best optical manufacturers in the world, well, I guess I would do as much as I could to apply some of that to a more attainable and affordable market. No one is expecting Leica quality, if we were, we would buy Leica lenses, but they do have some history and I’m sure some corners could be cut to bring cost down to sub $400 levels (like the 20mm pancake prime for instance). I know this is not exactly what everyone wants, but I think there are more than a few who do. Again, I really see that they have enough momentum and resource to provide both a poor man’s leica/high end compact system camera type platform in the GF line AND a higher end video outfitted dSLR style like the GH line. Two different approaches with two different market segments being able to benefit from and utilize the same overall system. Not many companies currently offering that, which is where I think much of the advantage can be taken.

      Thanks for the comment and read!



  12. By and large I agree with your assessment of the state of micro 4/3. I think Sony has gone too far in the downsizing direction to merely score adertisin points. I really wonder how their “camera body as an appendix to the lens” design will satisfy users in the real world.
    However my biggest gripe is that no one seems to see this format as a serious “go anywhere” format. I am still waiting for a weather-proofed body and lens that I can dangle around my next without fearing rain or splashes when out hiking or fishing. My Pentax K-7 and kit lens is smaller than most DSLRs and does a great job at handling saltwater, fish slime and rain at a darn good price. Yet every one seems to be pumping out tiny sensor indestructible cams with the crappiest image quality on the market. Sony has at least proved there is no physical reason now why Olympus cant make a Micro 4/3 SW at about the same price.
    One other avenue is open that Sony NEX offers – have some good quality conversion lens to go on the fast primes. Something maybe Sigma should have tried with the DP- series. No lens mount or dust issues, and cheaper lens alternatives for the consmer – a win-win as far as I can see.


    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think Pentax has done really well in providing an affordable (and nearly indestructible) package. I would love to see the m4/3 platform follow in a similar pattern. Assuming it would be realistic cost wise (which by necessity for competition’s sake has been for Pentax), I do think it would be a beneficial perk for almost any shooter. Who wouldn’t appreciate the extra added benefit of a solidly built weather resistant camera system as long as it didn’t create a noticeably higher cost? I hope a feature like this will work its way into the system, but I feel it may not be a priority at this point from Oly and Panasonic’s standpoint. Maybe Panny could (or could have) offer one of the 3 G/GH lines as a weather-resistant platform, more an “adventurer’s” camera and that certainly would have provided enough differentiation to avoid my ire and frustration as it would have provided something truly different.



  13. I completely agree with the lack of lenses from olympus. The shooter has to stand so far back because of the 2x crop factor it becomes increasingly frustrating.

    Yet olympus doesn’t release any reasonably priced sharp, smaller focal length lenses that don’t have chromatic distortion or aren’t “soft”.

    The best lens I own and I love it is the 50mm prime. The 35mm prime and the 25mm prime are both jokes. The 35mm prime is so soft, I can’t use it for anything. The 25mm prime has so much CA, I can barley use it for vacation images. And all of the zoom lenses (12-60,11-35, etc) are so expensive they aren’t worth buying at their prices. For the price of buying two good oly lenses I might as well just save my money and buy a Nikon FULL FRAME and a 50mm prime and not have to stand in the back of the room for a good shot.


    • Thanks for reading through Taryn!

      I am curious to see what Olympus has up its sleeve. There are some rumblings about a few things around the corner. Each system has its shortcomings, it’s how these companies choose to address them that can be frustrating depending on where you stand.

      I’m hoping to see a micro 4/3 wide angle pancake prime come in at under $400, but I’m not holding my breath.




  14. OH and it would help greatly if OLY decided to actually put a light-assist button on their models. It’s a HUGE selling point for low-light photography. I can’t take my Oly 620 ANYWHERE at night.


    • It’s not just the Olys, my canon dSLRs don’t have any light driven focus assist unless I have a speedlight attached to the camera. This, to me, is where fast lenses come into play (and a big reason for my rambling on and on about the need for f/2 or faster prime lenses for not just these cameras, but all camera systems in my opinion).


  15. The Sony NEX e-mount is full frame capable from the outset. Look at the specs. That’s why the lens barrel extends beyond the top/bottom of the current body.

    I give APS-C in that form factor 4 years, tops. Then it will all be FF as it will be the only way to advance features and keep sales moving through tech.


    • I don’t doubt that we will see a full frame mirrorless system camera in the future (and I doubt we will have to wait 5 years for it to happen), but the fact still remains, you need a lot more glass and metal hanging off your camera to cover a full frame sensor which kind of negates the whole “small” thing. Sure you can eliminate quite a bit of bulk, but to me, I need a bit of camera in front of me for serious shooting to balance my serious full frame compatible lenses and I don’t see myself getting rid of my serious cameras to ‘cut down on bulk’ behind the lens just for the sake of it. The only way to make a full frame lens small is to make it frustratingly slow with a hindering max aperture. I see the benefit to a mirrorless ‘small’ camera as just that, small. Small camera, small lenses all fitting into small(ish) pockets. Put a full frame lens onto one of these guys and all that goes out the window. That said, I do enjoy the novelty of using adapters on my GF1 to use my full frame compatible lenses, but I don’t bring those lenses out with the camera if I want to try and easily carry my camera around with me. It’s just fun to be able to.

      I want fast lenses and for that to happen in full frame terms, that means lots and lots of glass which then means a completely imbalanced set up if you take the bulk of a standard full frame dSLR out of it. Look to any f/1.4 or faster lens compatible with full frame and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


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