It’s often read and repeated: Micro Four Thirds is dead! Olympus’ camera department has been sold and full frame mirrorless is currently ruling the game. Am I the only one who doesn’t care?
Recently, my beloved Nikon D750 went corrupt. I still love that camera, and whenever I get the chance, I will send it to get repaired. However, when the universe closes one door, it opens at least another. While one part of my heart broke with my camera, the other started beating faster. It’s a good reason to buy a new one, after all.
I was flirting with another system for a while, and most people would consider it a regression. But before you declare me mad, let’s take a look at the facts.
On a professional basis, I use my camera for travel photography and documentary work. Besides that, I also photograph a lot of landscapes, mostly for myself.
In the past, my Nikon D750 served me well on all of my journeys. My only problem: It kept me from being spontaneous. Wearing it on the waist was a little disturbing after a while, and I am definitely not a camera strap kind of person. Thus, my camera was either packed in a camera bag, or I carried it in my hand. For my projects, it was fine to only get the camera ready when I needed it.
Every now and then, I had the feeling that I missed some shots — surprising impressions on the street, scenes which passed before I could get the camera out of my bag. Even in landscape photography, I was often too lazy to unpack my gear whenever there was no clear “keeper” in sight. Being frustrated about the restrictions of constantly traveling with heavy, albeit not the heaviest camera gear, I got myself a little everyday cam, an Olympus E-M10. Even though this camera could never reach the quality of my full frame Nikon, I love it. I could keep it basically in any pocket and get it ready whenever I wanted.
With a 17mm prime lens attached, I shot as many photographs with it as I did with my Nikon. I also used it for filming my trips and even some smaller commercial projects. As it always happens, I soon started thinking about upgrading it to the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which I eventually did.
What Do I Shoot?
Of course, it was a hard decision to make. After all, you’ll lose many advantages when you “downgrade” from a full frame system to a sensor that is only half the size. The beautiful bokeh of wide-open portrait lenses, the amazing dynamic range, and not the least: the amazing detail at 100 percent magnification.
Isn’t that everything a photographer can dream of? Well, it depends. After I honestly reflected on my needs, I found that I hardly use any of these features. The last time I shot on f/1.8 was when I shot some business portraits for friends from university. And even there, f/5.6 would have been a better choice! I don’t need soft bokeh for my rough documentaries, and when I shoot landscapes, I can also use filters and HDR to compensate for the lack of dynamic range.
Even the resolution of my entry-level MFT would still be good enough for magazine-size prints. Let’s take a magazine with a spread size of 13 x 9 inches. Even though it’s unlikely that I’ll be asked to shoot for this magazine too soon, the resolution needed to fill it with 300 dpi is only 3,900 x 2,700 pixels. (10.53 MP) For web purposes, I’d even need to resize my pictures.
But Still: Why MFT?
Hence, what I really need is a weather-sealed camera that I can carry wherever I want. But why MFT? Actually, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is even 0.1 mm wider than a Nikon Z 7 and 6 mm wider than a Sony a7S III. Except for its smaller height, It’s not even that small. And even if I don’t need more than 20 MP, why not have them for a little crop?
So, here is the real reason: lenses and prices. I can get a new Sony a7R II for about the same price as my Olympus OM-D EM-1. But I can’t get a 24-70mm equivalent cheaper than my 12x40mm f/2.8 M.Zuiko. I also can’t get it smaller.
What Was That Tripod Thing For?
I haven’t shot with too many of the latest full frame cameras yet and have never checked their IBIS. Even if their stabilization systems can outdo mine, I’m quite sure that I can’t get better stabilization for the same price. In fact, I shot some photographs with a shutter speed of four seconds. They weren’t tack sharp, but were usable.
I still carry a tripod with me for landscape photography. After all, it helps me work on my compositions and get everything into the frame that I need. It keeps the composition fixed whenever I wait for better light, and I even use it to protect myself from wild dogs every now and then. Yet, it’s not the end of the world if I leave it at home. In most situations, I will be ready to shoot handheld with low ISO values, even in low-light conditions.
The Perfect Travel Companion
In conclusion, I found the perfect camera for most of my purposes. I saved a lot of money in comparison to some other systems, which means I can spend more on travel expenses and the organization of some private projects.
While I’m on the road, my camera is always ready, too. Lightweight and small, I even carry two prime lenses along with my zoom lens. The (non-PRO) M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 and the 45mm f/1.8 together weigh below 250 g and fit into every pocket. My E-M1, E-M10, and three lenses make less than 1.5 kg in my bag and yet cover almost everything I need, including a backup body.
So, what does it teach us? Whenever discussing the best camera and what’s “dead,” we should take a look at our (and others') needs first. For me, the Olympus MFT-system fits best — at least at the moment. Others will prefer a different sensor, a different brand, different lenses. The market is full of individuals with individual preferences. If I ever switch to fashion, wedding, or studio portrait photography, I certainly will grab my full frame camera and only use my MFT system as an everyday solution. After all, Olympus also produces the most beautiful cameras, in my opinion.