Maximum Mix And Match!

Many years ago when I used to cover the Paris fashions, I shot a feature on why, at a time when clothes were expensive in Paris and cheap in London, French women, Parisiennes, in the street looked better dressed.

The answer was simple. More expensive clothes meant buying fewer clothes. It meant you had to think what you bought in terms of what  was already in your wardrobe. Three skirts, Three tops and three colours of tights, all of which mix-matched, gave a woman what amounted to a different outfit for every day of the week.  At minimal cost, taking up minimal wardrobe space but requiring more thought in the choosing process.

It’s a concept that I’ve always found pleasing, mixing and matching.  When I had Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras, I had a Canon rangefinder for carrying around.   When I had Nikon Fs, I had a Leica for carry-around. With my first DSLR I alighted on Micro Four Thirds cameras as my carry around. None of these solutions matched my Parisienne ideal since each camera needed its own lenses. Mixed they were, matched they weren’t.

Then I went over fully to Micro four Thirds. Mixed and matched at last!

Fast forward to today. Recently I looked again at my video Why I Use Micro Four Thirds Cameras, made 18 months ago outlining my reasons for ditching my DSLRs and going over to Micro Four Thirds for all my photography. I listened to myself explaining how the system is for me an ideal compromise between IQ, portability and practicality with its comprehensive ecosystem of lenses and accessories.

I wondered if anything new had come along would make me rethink my video. It hasn’t. If anything would, the Sony A7 system would be it but if you look at the cost and size of an A7 system with f2.8 zooms and so on, it’s a lot more than M43 and as the laws of optics dictate, even a mirrorless full frame camera cannot match a tiny lens to that big sensor.

One particular new thing has come along but far from making me rethink, it has reinforced my relationship with M43. The introduction of the GM1, followed by the GM5 and their two tiny zoom lenses, the 12-32mm and 35-100mm f4-f5.6.

Now Micro Four Thirds is not only mix and match, one format has  morphed into three logical systems with little lenses for little bodies and bigger lenses for bigger bodies.  And just right lenses for just right bodies….sorry, that’s the three bears, isn’t it?

Lets call them casual, street and ‘serious’ systems. In my film past that would be respectively a Sureshot, Leicas and a Nikons.

In my ‘serious’ camera bag, GH4, 7-14mm f4, 12-35mm f2.8 and 35-100mm f2.8, with a Nikkor 300mm f4.5 with Metabones Speed Booster (420mm f3.2 equivalent, only half a stop slower than an f2.8 400 Nikkor selling for 8 times the price and eight times the weight!) and Nikon to MFT adaptor (600mm f4.5 equivalent). And the GX7 with 12-32mm for pulling straight out of the bag for instantaneous use plus mounting the 300mm for use stabilized. Serious stuff.

My street outfit, GX7 with Olympus 17mm and 45mm f1.8s. Street stuff, fun stuff.

And my  GM5 with 12-32mm and 35-100mm titchy lenses.  Casual stuff.

Plus 14-140mm superzoom and Olympus 60mm Macro for video and (obviously) macro with any of the camera bodies.

Sometimes I use the 14-140 on the GH4 for video, sometimes on the GX7 on a bright summer days when out walking. The GX7 makes a good backup for the GH4 in serious mode. The GM5 with 35-100 makes a good backup for the GX7 with 17mm f1.8 in street mode. The permutations are endless but the f2.8 zooms don’t make a lot of sense on the GM5 or the 12-32mm zoom on the GH4. The GX7 happily floats around between systems when not doing its street duty and seems as at home with the 300mm Nikkor as it is with the 12-32mm mini-zoom.

All in all, Maximum Mix And Match.

I’ve done a short video cum slideshow here  to give a visual idea of my three outfits..

I started out talking about the Parisian women’s mix and match philosophy and its benefits. It’s exactly what I’ve achieved with my cameras now, for the first time in my life. Everything works with everything else and gives the same quality.

And if I lay personal claim to now being, photographically, ‘une Parisienne’, I hope you will understand what I mean and not conclude that I am gender confused.

22 thoughts on “Maximum Mix And Match!

  1. Gonzalo Broto

    I have a similar outfit but streamlined to 2 instead of 3 lines: the carry-always-with-me outfit (GM1 with the tiny 12-32 and the PanaLeica 15) and the conscious-photography-session outfit (GH3 with both X zooms plus the Nocticron).
    I don’t consider them to be much different in terms of Image Quality, however, just different tools for different purposes!

    1. Post author

      It’s having the same format, quality and everything that attracts me too. The just choose the camera size and capabilities. It’s almost like old film 35mm days!

  2. Guy Morgan


    As always, your commentaries are as entertaining as they are informative.

    Add me to the list of Panasonic fans waiting for a longer GM1/5 friendly f4 zoom for as clear and fiendishly compact the 35-100mm f4-f5.6 zoom is; I’ve found myself in situations where I needed a little more zoom and couldn’t move closer to the subject.

    Have just moved from a GM1 to a GM5 as I always preferred to compose shots using a viewfinder and having to use reading glasses with the GM1 was too much faffing around. As my last viewfinder camera was a Panasonic P & S, I’m very happy with the quality of the GM5’s EVF. The click wheel is an absolute boon to those with Fat Thumb Syndrome like myself.

    I do have one GM5 menu question though…

    Am I going mad or is the Level Gauge feature only available as Function Menu item? I had turned it off and then removed the feature from the Function Menu which lead me to spend at least an hour scouring the menus for it before adding it back to the Function Menu.



    1. Post author


      I agree and given the size of the GM5, I think they’ve done a good job with the viewfinder. If you want a small camera there have to be compromises.

      No, you’re not going mad. The reason is that the main way to get the level gauge (which I use a lot) is to press the disp. button the back of the camera. That cycles though the screen modes, two of which include the level gauge. There is a logic there, it’s just that they don’t explain it very well….which is illogical.

  3. Iman

    Hi, David,

    Just wondering whether you have a chance to review the Tamron 18-150mm lens. I know its not greatest M43 lens out there but as there not many non native M43 lens around its a good one to review.

    1. Post author

      Hi Iman I’ll see what Tamron say but since neither Panasonic or Olympus grace me with even an automated reply to my emails, I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Worth a try though.

  4. leendertv

    Very nice post!

    I’m very happy with my one camera, one lens setup: Panasonic GX7 + 14-140mm f3.5-5.6
    Nice lightweight combination for long summer days.
    With the Raynox DCR150 macro conversion lens (in my pocket) on the 14-140mm I can make great macro’s too (example, handheld:
    The Panasonic 20mm f1.7 fits also very nice in a pocket for low light shooting.

    I have also the Panasonic 100-300mm f5.6-6.3. But i’m not very happy with this lens.
    Waiting for something like a Panasonic 100-300mm f4.

    Still looking for a small flash too. The Nissin i40 looks very nice.

    1. Post author

      I’d like a 100-300mmm f4 too – but Panasonic seem to be neglecting their long lens lenses lately. That macro is impressive – you can even see the tiny hairs on the grasshopper’s body. That flash is interesting – thanks for the heads up, good prices available, too.

  5. N3EG

    This is exactly why I went m4/3 as my digital ILC format – interchangeable, adaptable, more of a lenshacker’s system. I have 5 adapters, and find my best lenses are my $5 Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 and my $5 M42 Vemar 135mm f/2.8. This all started in 1981 when I first did lenshacking on a Pentax Auto 110 SLR camera, the film version of 4/3.

    1. Post author

      I love the all he lens stuff you can do simply because of the short flange to lens distance. I’m impressed with you having been at it since 1981. I’m just realising what a good lens I’ve just bought a Nikon 300mm f4.5. Cost me £140 and with focus peaking, amazingly quick and definite to focus. It’s my first lens hack!

  6. Avi

    Been following you for years (ever since I picked up my GH-3). I have had the opportunity to walk around with a Sony A7r. Great sensor and great low light performance. The shutter slap on the A7r scared the crap out of me the first time I used it. It’s that loud. The Camera is big and slippery. There is nothing portable about the glass, native or legacy. It is a phenomenal camera, particularly if you like the Sony ecosystem or you shoot Canon and want to migrate your lenses to a different system. Nikon uses the same sensor in the D750 so there’s not the same impetus to switch systems unless you need very high end video options. I don’t shoot in the dark very often, love the portability of my GH-3, and the glass. Everything I need goes in the bag and off I go. The size of MFT has got me shooting all the time and that’s the point right? I am gonna jump into the next Panasonic pro body when it’s released. Keep up the good work!


    1. Post author

      That’s very interesting, Avi. I don’t really know the Sony system and I think maybe the quite small body dimensions have given me a false impression of what would be the size of the outfit. I did take a look at the size and weight of some of the lenses, though and concluded, like you, that an outfit even approaching my MFT gear would be more than I would be prepared to take on.
      Like you, MFT keeps me shooting because it is just such a great balance of quality and size.
      I’m glad you like my stuff, makes it worthwhile doing it. The next Panasonic or Olympus) pro type cameras will be interesting because I don’t see what they can make except incremental improvements now. The GH4 sensor is no different to the GH3 as far as I can tell and it does seem that we are reaching the physical limits. In reality, when the GH2 came out the image quality was as good as I needed. Any improvement is always welcome but like you I don’t shoot in the dark much and when I do it is usually pix where I can use a tripod. I’m grateful for the hands on experience of the Sony stuff. Excellent equipment but you have confirmed it is not for me.
      I’m grateful for your hands on observation of the Sony equipment – reality

  7. pterosonus

    Nice read. I have both E-M10 and GM1 bodies with lenses for each. You sent me to the dictionary for “titchy”. It’s Brit English not heard in America.

    1. Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it. titchy, I probably should have used itsy-bitsy which works both sides of the Atlantic, I think. I mentioned to another American recently that the British are so familiar with American entertainment that we forget the languages are subtly different. But of course, the British don’t export anything like as much entertainment to the USA, so we know your slang (usually a year or two later) but you just won’t have seen some of ours.

      Your comment prompted me to look up the derivation of the ‘titchy’. There was a music hall comedian in late Victorian times who worked under the name of Little Tich. He was just over 4ft tall and took his name jokily from a well known big fat Englishman called Titchborne, who was in the news at the time. Hence, anything tiny is titchy. You’re not telling me you didn’t know that are you 🙂

  8. Roy Norris

    Hi David, I occasionally return to your video about why you use M43 cameras.
    It left a lasting impression on me and an occasional return to it is good for the soul.{:))
    Although I have gone Sony in the main now apart from one exception your philosophy still stands. Thanks.

    1. Post author

      Those Sony cameras really are at the top of the game now. I don’t have any more information than anyone else but I imagine they must be making some waves in the professional world. I’m comfortable with my MFTs because the size and capabilities are right for me but if I were still a working pro I’d be testing out the A7s very seriously.

  9. Keiron

    Hi David

    Fantastic article, I really agreed with your comments 18 months and they still hang in my thoughts when I pull out my M43 camera. I have this (irrational) fear that the M43 format has peaked and now with Sony’s aggressive offerings the age of Full Frame mirrorless is here and it is the format we should all be aiming for, but then I look at my pictures and can’t see a reason to spend the money and lose the small size of the M43 system.

    I recently tried to merge music and photography so I started sneaking my GX7 into concerts. In those low light situations the M43 sensor should struggle but I get really great shots out at the end of them. One of the bands that I took photos of contacted me after I mailed them the pictures and asked if I could photograph their album launch which was a dream come true, but I felt like I couldn’t take my GX7 if I was going to be paid. I told the band I would charge them the price to rent a D610 so that I had a great lowlight camera and I would be “more professional” . They happily agreed and even though I did have the better light gathering of the sensor it was a big camera and moving around the crowd and climbing on and off the stage was a nightmare. During the whole concert I missed my GX7, I missed the stealth of it, the size and all the fancy tricks that they packed into that small body, and when I looked at the photos afterwards my GX7 could have done the same job since the band didn’t need super larger images.

    That was a big learning for me and it really demonstrated that a bigger sensor and higher priced cameras are not always better, we just need the right tool for the job and for me the GX7 is exactly that.

    I wrote a short article on Steve Huff’s site about my foray into concert photography if you want to have a look:

    Hope you have a great day.

  10. A P Hoban

    as usual, in the past three years of subscribing, we have learned much from an accomplished professional, who luckily for us his audience, reins in the egotism and lets the facts and careful observation shine through. Following you and a couple more “lights”, I never even bothered to climb into the DSLR washtub. No for my economically minded life, I traveled straight to the M43. It has been a fun road thus far: Sony nexus F3, Panasonic G5 and GH3. Still love my Canon power shot S100, always belt strapped extra batteried and ready to go.

    1. Post author

      Thanks for the kind words. I think I’m lucky in having used, over the years, all the finest equipment that money can buy in my job. So, while I had a Nikon 300mm f2.8, I also had a Nikon 300mm f4.5. And I found that the 2.8 sat in the boot of my car unused just about all of the time, just too big, obtrusive and unwieldy for everyday jobs. Enough of that and not liking to waste money or carry more weight than I have to has led me to where I am. Which seems to be a very similar attitude to the one you have.

      When I get something like the f1.2 Nocticron, my first thought, like everyone else is ‘wow, this is amazing’. And it is. But put it alongside the Olympus 45mm and take a distanced look at them both and the picture changes. The compactness of the Olympus is just as much a wow factor as the aperture of the Nocticron in reality, just less obvious.

  11. Bob Fairbairn



    You are a real pro. You use your experience to show us scaleable methods to get great images using tools that anyone can access. You could start in the middle and do the street casual thing. You could start small and get the flexible tiny system. Or start BIG! Are we formal this week or beach casual!


    1. Post author

      Thanks Bob. I can tell you that given the weather here, definitely not beach casual. I’m currently looking for a lens with a built in wind-break and umbrella 🙂


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