A Reviewer’s Revolt

Reviewing micro four thirds equipment is getting challenging. Not in the sense that the gear is getting boring, nothing could be further from the truth. New bodies, new lenses, new ideas, innovation and improvement are routine in this restless corner of camera design.

It’s getting challenging because no-one is making bad stuff any more. Finding things to criticize becomes an exercise in nit-picking. I’ve just reviewed Olympus’s gorgeous little 17mm f1.8. My criticisms are, first are that it isn’t weather sealed. Yes, but nor are most lenses and weather sealing doesn’t really have any meaning anyway. What weather is it sealed against? A sand storm? A light rain shower? No-one ever specifies and the reality amounts to whether they’ve put a rubber ring somewhere where it might stop water getting to that particular part of the lens.

In other words, you might be able to use your lens unprotected in a the monsoon or you might not. But if you do, weather sealing or no, your warranty won’t be valid. So you will cover the lens while using it in the rain. Just as you would if it wasn’t sealed.

My second criticism is that the lens doesn’t come with a lens hood. It really ought to at the price but it’s only a big criticism if you are a brand junkie, in which case the lens hood will cost you £60, the best part of $100 more than €70. Otherwise, you can get one on Amazon for just over 3 quid. So my two major criticism’s don’t amount to much more than a teenager’s shrug and ‘whaa-ever’.

So what’s the challenge, you ask? The challenge is not to have your review sound like it coming from come from the mouth of some sycophantic fanboy whose dad owns a camera shop. Camera after camera, lens after lens, there isn’t a bad one.

You have two major manufacturers producing equipment whose specification was only finalized a few years ago. Digital DSLRs were already common, so the MFT was designed from the ground up as a new standard, incorporating software lens correction to make optically impractical lenses and all the experience of previous digital cameras to make a sophisticated and quality system truly of the digital age.

With computer aided design, if you put in a set of requirements, the computer will come up with a range of possible solutions. Lets say you want to design a standard zoom with a 12mm to 50mm range. You can have a physically long one one with a shifting and restricted aperture (Olympus 12-50). Or a more compact one (14-42mm) with shifting and restricted aperture, both relatively cheap. You can have a faster one with constant aperture (Panasonic 12-35 f2.8), bigger, or wider range (12-40mm f2.8) but bigger still and both expensive. You could have a 12-50 f2 constant aperture. But it would be comparatively massive, very, very expensive and have compromised optical quality. And so on.

This makes MFT different from DSLR. Ditching the mirror gives you much more freedom in lens design. The MFT sensor means you can build a camera as tiny as Panasonic’s GM1 or as big as Olympus’s E-M1. In film days, the half-frame never really caught on with serious photographers because it had to use a smaller area of the same sensitive material as its larger siblings. MFT has new sensors specifically developed for it.

This has changed things. As a professional I used Hasselblad and Mamiya 6×7 equipment for studio, centre spreads and magazine covers, 35mm for out and about stuff. Today full frame is the studio format – and the out and about format. But MFT seems to be making a small breakthrough in some professional areas for reportage with reports that some Magnum photographers are using them. The M4/3 format is coming good. It becomes harder and harder to see the point of the smaller sensor APS_C DSLRs. They have too many of the disadvantages of full frame with not enough of the benefits of MFT. I’m not saying that they have no advantages, only that they do not outweigh the advantages except in specific cases.

Which brings me, at last, to the point of this blog entry, the Reviewers Quandary. There is not a camera or lens currently in production for MFT that I would not happily recommend to my best friend. There are no bad ones, no dogs, all the tools in this shed are sharp. It makes reviewing difficult.

Much more fun to write ‘the PanOly 6-100mm f1.4 zoom is a heap of junk compared to OlyPan’s superb 7-210 f1.4. The Olypan is twice as sharp, half the size and weight and built like a Swiss watch. The Panoly has the resolving power of a bucket of sand as well as resembling said bucket in size, weight and build quality.’

Instead, it’s “on the one hand this and on the other hand, that, however there is little to criticize about these lens so if the extra 10mm of the Olypan is worth more to you than the 1mm less of the Panoly, buy the Olypan. If not, buy the Panoly. They are both superb lenses and i personally would be happy with either’. Yawn……………..

So, here’s my pleas to all MFT manufacturers in 2014 and forward. Would you please make some crap lenses, some fuzzy lenses, lenses that not only rattle but fall to pieces, camera focusing mechanisms that are 6 feet out every third shot, burst modes that promise 20fps until the SD is full but stutter to a halt after only 3 frames and 2 fps before catching on fire.

What about you pay £400 for a lens….and they try to charge another 60 quid for a hood? What? They already do that? No, really?

14 thoughts on “A Reviewer’s Revolt

  1. Stig Gammelgaard

    I am 58 years old and from Denmark. I have taken Pictures since I was af little boy (I won my first camera and then it started), but just for the fun of it and because I “have to”/can´t help it, and I have owned a lot of different cameras during the years. Most of my Pictures I take when I´m walking in the nature. I really enjoy your youtube videos. They are very informative, direct, precise, not too long and without too much tecnical/computerlike investigations. And you don´t speak too fast, so its possible even for a Dane to follow the videos. Recently I sold my Pentax K 30 and its lenses (I was very fund of it and it took great Pictures, but I found it too big and heavy), and bought an Olympus E-PL5 with kit lens 14-42 mm and 40-150 mm. Later on I have bought 3 lenses, Panasonic 20 mm, Olympus 45 mm and Sigma 30 mm. (Yes I have seen your recommendations of those three and totally agree, and yes the Sigma was not necessary, but I was curious and it was cheap). The kit lens 14-42 mm is not that good, andI am very keen on good picture quality (wheather the lens is ugly, not the fastest AF etc. isn´t the most important thing for me). Therefore I have started looking for another lens instead of the Olympus 14-42 mm. Do you have af suggestion? I have also thought of buying the Panasonic GM1 kit with the 12-32 mm lens instead of just buying a lens. Then I will get a lens with the focal length that I´m looking for and I will get a little #2 camera too. But is it better to spend the Money on one very good lens? On one hand I think I prefer to have only one camera that I can fully understand and control instead of having a #2 with a different menu, settings etc. But on the other hand with two cameras, in the field I can just swith between them instead of fumbling in the snow switching between two lenses on my E-PL5. What would you recommend?

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Hi Stig. I’m glad you like the videos. The MFTs are so good for someone like you who likes walking and therefore has to carry the camera.

      There’s no question that the best standard zooms are the Panasonic and Olympus 12-35/40mm zooms but they are both comparatively large for M43 lenses and may go against the reasons you sold your Pentax (I had a Pentax K5 which I liked but, as for you, I got a bit fed up with the weight of the lenses). The 2.8 lenses are expensive,too. On the other hand the rest of the standard zooms are much of a muchness and another 14-42 wouldn’t be much different.

      I think your idea of the GM1 sounds best, a spare camera but also a nice little zoom that is a bit better than the others.

      Reply
  2. Arie

    Very nice explain ,thank you indeed.I like to ask you ,i have a panasonic lumix dmc g3 with 2 lenses 14-42 and 45-150HD i didn’t like this camera.Can you sugest me wich on to buy?The panasonic lenses is very expensive.
    I like Sony nex 6 or Nikon 1V2.
    Thank you once again,
    A

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Thanks Arie. Since you have the lenses, it would make sense to buy another M43 body and sell the G3. I’d take a look at the Panasonic G6 or Olympus E-M5 but I don’ know why you don’t like the G3 so it is hard to say.

      The Sony and Nikon, I haven’t used either so I’m afraid my comments wouldn’t be much use.

      Reply
  3. Roy Norris

    No, No, I am an Englishman living in East Anglia although originally from Somerset in the West Country . You may have got that impression as I get a lot of American bloggers following my Blog.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Yes, that must have been it, the American followers. I though that crow looked English 🙂

      Reply
  4. Roy Norris

    Thanks David, the Crow shot was lucky as I had my GX1 (no Strap) in the other hand contemplating a scene shot and I had to hold the GH3 in one hand and shoot. Couldn’t have done that with my old 40D and 100-400 canon. MFT is great and I can walk for hours with all the kit (if needed) in the rucksack.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      It’s that blend of portability and performance that makes the format. I loved my DSLR equipment because it was like the equipment I used in my professional days and that was what I was used to. But suddenly, along comes a system where I can carry a camera and full range of lenses with great photo quality but without spoiling my days’ cycling.

      You’re British then but living in the US for a long time? Why did you move? My best mate worked in the USA for many years, in Los Angeles. He had an interesting attitude to America, basically adored it and living there but found some of the bureaucracy stifling and even though a sports shooter himself never became comfortable with the notion of weapons in public places. Mind you, he spent a lot of the time on assignments in the deep south and the mid-west.

      Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Ha ha! You’re right, I’ll take your advice! Looking at your stuff (I love the crow shot especially, they’re handome creatures), MFT is perfect for what you do. That combination of GH3 and the 35-100 just makes you want to go out walking, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  5. jmck

    Great post. Consider me a fan. Hell, I wouldn’t mind if you took occasional breaks from the photo thing and just rambled on about life as you’ve lived it. Everything you write and say somehow feels heartfelt and that is so refreshing…

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I don’t know what to say except your comment made me really happy and thanks. I’ll keep in mind what you say as I do have quite a few stories and observations from my time spent in a very interesting profession.

      Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      That’s what you get for Googling yourself 🙂

      The GH3 and 12-35 f2.8 (presumably the 18mm was a typo) represents about as good as you can get in M4/3 along with the Olympus equivalents. You can see what I make of them on my YouTube channel here GH3 Review and here 12-35mm f2.8

      I personally prefer the GH3 body to the E-M5, especially with the battery grip, which makes it about the best handling camera I’ve used.

      Reply

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