The Cameras Came in Two by Two – Hoorah! Hoorah! The GH5 and the E-M1 Mark 2

This year I have acquired two new Micro Four Thirds cameras. Not just any old cameras, The creme de la creme, the bees knees, the dog’s bollocks of Micro Four Thirds cameras, £4,000 worth! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and the Panasonic GH5.

No question, great cameras both of them. Probably overkill for most photographers. They certainly are for me. I don’t really need 60 frames per second burst shooting.  In fact, there is nothing I need that isn’t catered for by a Panasonic G80 or an Olympus E-M5 Mark II,

Yet there is always something seductive about top of the line equipment. For some photographers it is a matter of prestige and for a few a matter of necessity but I reckon for most it is a matter of curiosity more than anything else.

What does the best feel like? When a reviewer says the EVF is fantastic, how fantastic is fantastic? And how does it compare to the EVF in my own camera? If I want to shoot my dog jumping a hedge, does 60fps mean I can’t miss the picture? And is the C-AF so fast and accurate that they’ll all be pin sharp? Does the new sensor make 12,800 ISO clean enough for daily use?

There are three ways to find out.  Borrow one,  hire one or buy one. The truth is that with cameras as sophisticated as these, a couple of days hire or loan won’t even get you familiar with the control layout, let alone the performance. Sitting on the sofa with the camera pointed at the mantelpiece and whopping off 60fps won’t tell you much. Except that 60fps is an ideal conditions theoretical maximum more than an exact setting . A bit like that 62.6 miles per gallon your car will do.

So in the end, the only way to find out if you really want one is to buy it, play with it and shoot with it for a few months until it becomes familiar. Then you’ll know. But what if you don’t like it in the end?  What if you only use that 60fps capability because it is there?  And what if, when showing the results to friends on your tablet, the 20Mp files look no different to 16Mp ones?

Selling it will lose you a lot of money along with the eBay fees. So you’ve spent a shedload of money on something you don’t really want. To say nothing of all that time validating it to your partner.

Don’t worry, it won’t happen. You will like it. Nobody spends that much money on a camera and admits to themselves, let alone anyone else, that it was a mistake, You’ve spent so much time justifying it that even if, in your heart of hearts, you feel a bit…. well, disappointed,  you won’t acknowledge it because you don’t want it to be so.

You’ve bought into a dream. I had that dream many years ago when I  hankered after my first Leica. I thought it would make me Cartier-Bresson. Or rather, I thought I couldn’t start out on the road to Cartier-Bressondom until I had the Leica. Me being me, all that buying a Leica did was teach me that I was not Cartier-Bresson and that I didn’t like Leicas. It was a bit unfair on the Leica really. As Rose’s lover remarks in Steely Dan’s song ‘Rose Darling’, “all I ask of you is to make my wildest dreams come true”. It’s a bit of an ask.

I’m over all that now. Using all kinds of cameras day in and day out in my professional life, I came to see them as the tools they really are. Beautiful, intriguing, desirable, tactile tools. I love them and always have. I’ve been lucky to have worked on a daily basis with some of the world’s best, most expensive cameras . It has made me quite blasé about the best, the high end, highest performing cameras. That ought to be a bad thing but I don’t think it is.

I’m in an unusual (but enviable) position in that at any given time I have a selection of around half a dozen  Micro Four Thirds cameras to pick from when I go out. My dilemma, Having both the E-M1 Mark 2 and GH5 to choose from, ought to be which one of them will I take? it isn’t.

My head says, these are the best there is. Why would I choose something not the best? I don’t know but my heart and hands just instinctively prefer the G80 or the GX80. Being blasé, I don’t feel pressured to use something because it is ‘the best’. Right now, If I had to choose just one Micro Four Thirds camera to keep it would be the G80. With the 12-32 and 35-100mm small zooms it’ll fit a shoulder bag. Fit the battery grip and with the 12-40 and 40-150mm Olympus Pro zooms it’s a meaty picture making machine.

Would I miss anything from the two big boys? From the E-M1 Mark 2, the supremely comfortable hand grip and the machined from solid metal feel. It has the same satisfying gun like precision as the Hasselblad.

From the GH5, the focusing joystick and the My Menu function. To have a  menu consisting only of items you personally place there is sublime.  I have long advocated a menu system where you only add items as you need them. That way, none of the stuff you never alter even gets in the way. On the other hand, if you find yourself daily resetting the  AF Focus Adj. Lens Data set or the Master Pedestal setting, you can put them right up there at the top of your menu.

The joystick, all I can say is that it is simply the best way to focus bar none. Move the focus area around the screen intuitively, press it once and it re-centres the area, again and it leaps back to the last position it was in.

So there it is. I have a choice of lobster and caviar and I pick the cassoulet. For those of you who don’t know cassoulet, it’s a French peasant dish, their version of pork and beans.  The funny thing is that the freedom to pick what I like, not what I ought to like, that is the real luxury.

 

37 thoughts on “The Cameras Came in Two by Two – Hoorah! Hoorah! The GH5 and the E-M1 Mark 2

  1. Lyndon Smith

    Congrats on the two flagships! I am a happy owner of a G85, GX85 & EM5-ii, plus a decent arrary of (mainly Olympus) lenses. I fully plan on keeping my MFT system, but Fuji has intrigued me for a long time. Since the MFT flagships were so expensive I chose to get Fuji X-T2 instead. No regrets. As you have stated, another tool in the kit.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      They look nice, the Fujis. It’s a problem when cameras get to a certain price. For sure, the GX85 and GX80 are some of the best value around but when cameras get to the price of the two latest Micro Four Thirds they run into a lot of competition. Everything from FF models to the Fujis. The choice becomes less straightforward then. If the first Micro Four Thirds had had those kind of prices I’d have bought another system. I like the Olympus E-M1 Mkll and GH5 a lot but if I wasn’t buying to review and do the books, I’d be more than happy with a GX80 and G85. Or maybe a G85 and GM1.

      I will say for the GH5, though, that it’s the best camera for usability I’ve come across and it’s for that that I keep wanting to use it. I’m working on the review right now and what I keep wishing is that the joystick and My Menu could be implemented on the G85.

      Reply
  2. Jason

    Excellent blog , David, and wonderful Youtube video’s. After repeated viewings of yours – and Gordon Laings – reviews, i finally settled on a G80 as my waterproof m43 body. At almost three times the price, i couldnt justify either flagship.

    Really enjoying the Pana colours and keeping an eye out for a Gx9 announcement to get the RF form.

    Regards,

    Jason.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Hi Jason – thanks for the kind words. Yes, the big guns are very good cameras but the cost is out of proportion to other models. That’s always the way with top line hi-tec stuff. I have them because I review and do a book on them but for my own use I go for the G80. I await a GX9 with interest. All I’d want is to add the G80 shutter and stabilization to the GX8, really.

      Reply
  3. Karlo

    Hi David.
    I completely agree on what you said. Having the best of the best is a pretty, pretty thing. I remember back in the days of my youth, when I was still struggling to make my place under the Sun, thinking that when I’ll succeed I will settle for nothing but the best: best food, best cars, best cameras, best house. Now, 20 years later, having the possibility of choice between dining in fancy restaurants, eating expensive food with names I can’t even pronounce, and sitting in my home eating a nice honest plate of ham and eggs with a sliced tomato or two, I always choose the latter. I understood that the main thing is empowering yourself with the possibility of making choices which make you happy. I’m happier now shooting Lumix then I was shooting the venerable D300. And that’s it. I don’t envy people with large, expensive, pro L lenses.
    Regarding cameras: I went to the camera store with a purchase in my mind based on your advice: the G80 plus few lenses, but on the way there I realised that there is no chance in hell that I would carry a camera in a bag, and swap lenses. I stopped doing that and that’s why my DSLRs began collecting dust. So, what to do? The camera store clerk said: I have something just for you.
    Enter the LX100.
    I said to the clerk: you mean to tell me that this is a camera with a 1.7-2.8 Leica lens and in-body stabilisation and it costs 570 euros?
    The clerk replied: yes, and here, the manual focus ring, the aperture changing ring, and the picture format changing ring…
    Then I said: shut up and take my money.
    So far, it’s a match made in heaven. Light, pocketable (at least the thing fits in my army surplus cargo pants pockets), very good IQ, great stills quality, so many physical controls, nice and solid build and darn good looking. I carry it with me at all times, and it helped me to see better, knowing that I have a camera that can capture what I see. No more ”oh, if only I had my camera back pack with me…”
    I will shut up now.

    I would like to extend my thanks to you for pointing me in the Lumix direction.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I’m glad my Micro Four Thirds ramblings have been useful to you, Karlo, thanks. The LX100 is very popular with professionals as a carry everywhere camera. The manual control gives the sense of control they like – as do you. Given how we view photographs today, the IQ differences between cameras make little difference and work from the LX can’t be told from a DSLR unless you want huge prints.

      I just recommended an LX100 to a friend of mine who wants to get into photography and she is delighted with it. She likes the fact that she can have a top quality result from a camera she can keep in her bag! Photographers are very conservative about their equipment but I reckon many DSLR owners are rethinking the need for bulky equipment these days. I’m using and reviewing a GH5 at the moment and there is no question it is a great camera. The fact is, while not big by DSLR standards it is too big for casual use and not the right camera for many photographers. As a tool, though, like Olympus E-M1 Mkll, superb.

      Reply
  4. David B

    David T – I am on the verge of committing to the new GH5. I say “committing” because for me, it’s more than a purchase – with that large of an investment, I tend to keep my gear for years (have to). The technology seems to be mature and at a sweet spot now, and I’m expecting to get more than a few years of life out of the new gear. I’ve got a couple PL lenses that should pair well with the GH5 (with full support for the latest image stabilization tricks). That said, I do find that the features of these top-end cameras can be a bit dizzying.
    Towards that end, I have a request for you: Please do a book on the GH5.
    You may already have plans for this, but in case you’re on the fence, let me make my case.
    They’re going to sell a bazillion of these things (try ordering one now – most places are out of stock). It’s going to be a VERY popular camera.
    They’re about as complex as any machine you can hold in your hands could possibly be. And a *lot* of owners will be looking for additional guidance beyond the OEM manual which (at best) simply names something and shows how one can access that particular control. The manual never gives much (any?) in the way of practical guidance for how, why and when one might want to (or not want to) invoke that particular control.
    There is going to be a large, un-filled need for a good, practical guide to using the GH5. It seems you would be the ideal person to fill that need.

    Please do a book on the GH5.

    Thanks in advance for all you share.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Hi David – I’m started on a book on the GH5 already, though it is quite daunting and will take a while. I haven’t finished my review on the GH5 yet because I do need to get to really know a camera by simply using it and forming my opinions. Without pre-empting anything, I couldn’t agree more about the technology having matured now. While I shoot RAW, the JPG output of the GH5 looks to me as good as I’m ever going to get myself from RAW. The handling of the camera is sublime, the joystick focus area and ability to configure your own menu are real steps forward in usability. The stabilization seems to me to be much the same as the Olympus E-M1 Mkll. The only area I can’t vouch for yet is its C-AF ability (which isn’t very important to me), though it is certainly as good as any other Panasonic, if not the PDAF of the Olympus E-M1 Mkll. It may be as good as the Olympus, certainly it is as good or better than previous Panasonics and thus more than good enough for my needs.

      I find the capabilities of the top end cameras dizzying myself but the sheer usability of the GH5 makes it worthwhile just used as a bog standard general purpose camera. I do like the ability to write GPS information direct to the image file as you shoot too. It’s the sort of thing that reviewers often don’t mention but if you are travelling its invaluable. And it uses low power Bluetooth, so you don’t sap the battery. Dazzling, really.

      Reply
  5. Guy Morgan

    David,

    Really looking forward for to your usual no nonsense review of the 12-60mm f2.8-f4 PanaLeica lens that comes with the GH5 as the user reviews I’ve seen to date have been mixed.

    While my inner lazy git likes the idea of having the extra 25mm reach over my 12-35mm f2.8 without having to swap lenses, I’m not sure I want to give up having f2.8 across the FL range.

    Guy.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I haven’t started on the review of the 12-60 yet but I have been using it a lot. My initial feeling – and it shows no signs of changing – is that I’d prefer 12-35 or 12-40 with a constant aperture. It seems more solid, somehow. You start shooting a band at f/2.8, say and you need a shutter speed of 1/125th. I just like to know that whatever I do, the shutter speed won’t change. If it drops to 1/60th as I zoom, I’m at the point where I can’t be sure subject movement won’t ruin the shot. One thing for sure, the 12-60 has made me appreciate the 14-140 more. I’m not sure I see much difference in sharpness and for the flexibility of a 10x zoom range I’m perfectly willing to accept a higher ISO setting.

      I have a feeling that the 12-60 tries to bridge the gap between the 12-35 and the 14-140 but gives you the disadvantages of both rather than the advantage..

      Reply
  6. Malcolm Lawrence

    It’s great that manufacturers are continuing to develop their investment in MFT. Being able to purchase compatible high quality products in this system I think will continue to be well supported by customers.

    While I am enjoying my original EM1 and GX8 it is encouraging to note that if I drop either of these in a cassoulet I will have a marvellous range of options to choose from. Now that would be tricky!

    All the best and thanks again for your excellent blog.
    Regards
    Malcolm

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Thanks Malcolm. I’m very pleased to see all the Micro Four Thirds camera bodies and lenses being updated and augmented as you are. You keep hearing dire predictions about the camera industry but two big companies like Panasonic and Olympus ploughing money into R&D and marketing can’t all be based on hope. Cassoulet being one of my favourite dishes, I’m trying to decide whether dropping a camera into it would improve it or not. Maybe a a GX8 could be dropped into a big cauldron of cassoulet and the one who finds it gets a wish, like we used to do with a silver threepenny in a Christmas cake?

      I’m not sure how the camera would cope with goose fat, either. I know the E-M1 is weather resistant but goose fat?

      Reply
      1. Malcolm

        Threepences in Christmas cake. That brings back memories of mum putting threpences in the Christmas pud. And one of my uncles calling cuffs on trousers three pence catchers.

        I saw on one of the lens testing sites that certain lenses were definitely performing better on the em1 mkii, damn it!

        Reply
        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          The differences between the cameras are so subtle that in day to day use I can’t tell the difference (I shoot RAW). Actually, I don’t find the IQ of the G80 or GX8 any different in practical terms. Any Micro Four Thirds these days has ample IQ for normal photography. If IQ were a first concern, a full frame camera would be an easier way to get it.

          Reply
      2. Malcolm

        I’m starting to seethe with rage now like your view of the Nocticron, the mkii and gh5 are heavier and larger. I see my lenses will work better on the mkii. No I wouldn’t buy one – I’ll try to concentrate on composition and catching the magic of light

        Blast but I know they would look better on the mkii and gh5!! No continue on. I’m not using them to earn a living. Just forget it.

        Reply
        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          They might be sharper – though I doubt it would be noticeable – but I don’t think they would necessarily look better. A lot of old Nikkor lenses won’t match their digital counterparts for sharpness but they look a lot nice pictorially.

          Reply
      3. Malcolm

        Get your Mrs to put a Cassoulet on – I’m coming over to slam dunk my cameras. Mind you she would hit me with her ladle.

        Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I’m afraid there is nothing I can do about it, Gilles. Amazon have a problem with ‘Print On Demand’ for Canada (I’ve researched it). Sometimes a book is made available but it has to be ordered by an independent book seller who will order many copies and act for Amazon. That’s not under my control, however and books like mine are unlikely to be so ordered. The book may appear in paperback form on amazon.ca but there seesm no rhyme or reason to it. You could maybe contact Amazon yourself but I thoink they would tell you to order it from amazon.com and I am told the postage is expensive. I wish I coud be more help.

      Reply
  7. Trevor Burnham

    I wish Panasonic will update the menu system for the G80 to have the My Menu option. I’m sure ot wouldn’t be that hard to do. I’m getting fed up with goong through pages of options!

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I wonder if they will? I don’t see any reason to use it only on their most expensive camera.

      Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Then you’d be one of the people I mentioned who did have a use for it and you’d want to buy one, surely? Why not? My only caveat would be that if you absolutely needed the very, very best C-AF you’d need to accept the price, size and weigh penalty and a Nikon D5.

      Reply
  8. David

    Hi David

    I am a big fan of your videos and articles. They are a big reason that i am invested in m43 kit owning a gx80 at the moment. I am toying with the idea of a g80 based on yours and other reviews and agree its more camera than I would ever need. The only thing that keeps me from pulling the trigger is the evf. It’s the one area that I do want to know I am using something that is at least close to the best. What is your take on this compared to the one on the em1 mk1/2 or gh5? Also how much better is it than the one on the gx80?

    Thanks

    David

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      You don’t need to worry about the EVF. It has the same snappy, contrasty quality as the GX80 but to the eye appears much bigger. You lose that ‘looking down a tunnel effect of the GX80. Compared to the GH5 or Olympus E-M1 Mkll it is smaller but you need to go from one to the other to see the difference. Judged in isolation they seem much the same size. The G80 has snappier colours than either of those, though.

      Reply
  9. António

    Mr Thorpe

    I’ll not buy either, not in my wildest dreams, but I’m eager to view you next YT video on the subject!
    It’s a pleasure reading your blog posts, watching you videos while you’re being playful with your words!
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Thanks Antonio. Theses cameras are pretty esoteric and most of us simply don’t need their cutting edge capabilities. Just as well given what they cost.

      Reply
  10. Simon Knight

    Hi David, another perceptive blog entry on the human condition! Personally, I thought long and hard about buying the E1 Mk2 but in the end decided against as it is a lot of money and I don’t earn my living as a sports photographer. So I have ordered a G80 and some new lenses as they are better investment (panasonic/Leica 15mm and 25mm). I shall have to be happy to record my dog jumping through a hedge at 8Mbytes rather than 20. I may also get the two f2.8 zooms because they are weatherproof, whatever that means. Also, I’m certain that I don’t want to have to carry all the weight of the Olympus Pro gear, your line “With the 12-32 and 35-100 small zooms it’ll fit in a shoulder bag” is significant and a major reason, for many of us MFT users, why we downsized from the Canikon.
    Keep up the good work and good shooting,
    Simon

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Thanks Simon. I couldn’t agree more about buying lenses as opposed to a more expensive camera body. The top line Micro Four Thirds are a technical tour de force but I think the real heart of the system is in cameras like the G80 or E-M10 Mark II. The G80 in particular is a favourite of mine since it does everything I need at least as well as I need to do it. Not only that but conveniently and enjoyably, too.

      I think your decision about the Olympus E-M1 Mkll is right. I have know a number of top level sports photographers and I have to say that under their normal working schedule, shooting sequences after sequence at a sports event at 60fps would leave them with an impossible editing task. Any sports editor back in the office wants to see stuff now, not in half an hour when it is sorted. Those high speed shooting capabilities strike me as more of a marketing tool than anything else, in the way that SUVs are sold on their ability to climb mountains but used to pick up the kids from school.

      The weather-proofing, I take it to mean that the camera will continue to operate under limited wet conditions but not heavy rain or extreme cold. So, if it does get a bit wet, it’s OK but soaked probably wouldn’t be. Of course, weather sealing is pointless if the lens isn’t.

      Reply
      1. Kevin

        My GX8 is good enough for me so no body upgrades planned in the near future.

        Lenses fun to play with and I find they hold their value better than bodies too. eBay adds to the fun because if a lens isn’t quite right, it’s easy to trade it off for another; kind of a bartering system.

        The other place I’ve started investing in is lighting. Flash isn’t for everyone but it’s a genre I’m starting to really enjoy. I am eagerly awaiting Godox’s TT350-O for Olympus that I just heard about this week. TTL/HSS and radio trigger all in one. Can master other speedlights and big studio strobes.

        One thought on the EM1-II and lenses: I’ve read a couple of blogs where the photographers are having good success with old Zuiko lenses; especially with SWD focus drives. That line has some lenses that look very ineresting to me: 300mm/f2.8, 150mm/f2.0, 90-250mm/f2.8, 35-100/f2.0, 14-35mm/f2.0, 50-200mm/f2.8-3.5. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to adapt well to non-phase detect AF camera’s. From what I’ve read even the EM1-I was mediocre. So not only is the camera to drive them expensive but some of these lenses are too. But they are still interesting and unique options made viable to MFT users via the EM1-II; even if they are out of reach for people in my income bracket. But if it works well, one day I will have the 150 or the 90-250; maybe both… dreaming makes photography fun!

        Reply
        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          It is the dreaming that’s fun sometimes, I agree. I wonder why Olympus don’t make the lenses for Micro Four Thirds that they did for Four Thirds. Must be something to do with the back focus of the Micro lens mount. There are an awful lot of people who’d go for a 35-100 f/2.

          Reply
  11. Eric Valk

    I already have the GX7 and GM5, and E-M1.
    Not sure I will upgrade, but if so I would buy another Lumix only if it has the redesigned shutter mechanism of the GX85. (So, no, not the GH5 for me)

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I have tried the GH5 thoroughly for shutter shock and there isn’t any. It is a new shutter, I think, It’s nothing like as nice as the GX85 in sound or operation, though. The G80/85 has refined the shutter even further and is just lovely.If you want to feel a good old clunk, the Olympus E-M1 Mkll’s shutter is the one. You can actually feel it judder the camera. Still no shutter shock effect, though.

      Reply

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