View Full Version : Micro Four Thirds thoughts / experience

11-02-2010, 2:52am
Hi all,

Thinking of investing in the Olympus Pen E-PL1 when it releases next month - hopefully it won't break the bank. RRP $600.00 in the US. Seems to be newbie-friendly too, a plus as I'm new to photography.


Would appreciate advice from anyone who has experience or comments regarding heading down the m4/3 route! Will be doing a fair amount of travel and not too keen to carry a dSLR around hence the m4/3.

Have also been looking at the Panasonic GF-1 as an alternative, much pricier though :( Hoping not to go above the $1000.00 mark to start with. But that 20mm f1.7 lens is a sure winner.....


Torn between the Pen and the GF-1: in-built image stabilization vs superior AF. Thoughts / comments very welcome :)

11-02-2010, 7:10am
My thoughts. Olympus produce some quality gear, but their blinkered approach to the 4/3rds system and now the micro 4/3rds will not do them a huge deal of favours at the pinnacle of photography (the Pro's). I reckon their sensor size limitations will be their undoing.

As other manufacturers go towards full frame more and more (35mm film sized sensors) they are producing incredible quality, especially with the higher ISO's now available. The size of a 4/3rds sensor is going to be the downfall of Olympus in the longer term, in my opinion. For example, if you stick 20MP on a full frame sensor and 20PM on a 4/3rds sensor, the FF one is going to be able to produce better quality results as each pixel site is larger, especially if you start increasing the ISO.

Now, the 4/3rds system is cleverly designed, well thought out and Olympus lenses are very high quality (in general), and certainly the results they produce are stunning, but I wonder if in another 10 years time, they will be so far behind the rest of the field cause of their determined one-mindedness to stick to a very small sensor size, compared to the competition. Remember you are buying into a System, not just one camera. If you stick with photography long term, Olympus might not be your best option.

Just my thoughts.

PS: The Oly Pen is a great little camera.

11-02-2010, 8:51am
I fully agree with what Rick says. I suggest you have a read of this Wikipedia article about the Four Thirds system Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Four_Thirds_system).

You can clearly see there the size difference between Four Thirds, APS-C (used in most DSLRs) and 35mm FF (Full Frame). Remember that when it comes to sensors, size matters. And the more mega pixels they cram onto that sensor then size really matters.

11-02-2010, 9:07am
G'day Paiyan

A couple of thousand years ago, in the days of film, the big arguement was "6x4,5cm" format versus "35mm" format as the larger 6x4,5 was so much bigger in area, therefore better able to handle enlargements than 35mm format ... and so it was correct

Then along came this upstart called the Olympus Pen 1/2-frame 35mm camera series, incl the interchangable lens version called the Pen-F. It captured the hearts of thousands around the world, as it offered SLR features in a pocket-sized body. Yes, the film size was very small, and the users accepted that it'll do a great 8x10", but a 16x20" is stretching the friendship, however it went on to become one of the world's famous camera systems.

So where does this leave you?

As Rick says ~ today when you go dSLR you are buying into a system, and like any system you need to look ahead as to what you want & where do you want to go

I see no difficulty in choosing a small-format sensor & camera & accessories if this will satisfy your needs ~ not everyone prints 16x20" or even 20x30" posters, therefore do you need a full-frame system? I use a small-format sensor camera and most of my prints are 8x12", and displayed around the house in nice wooden frames. Looks good, gets plenty of positive comment, no problems

Equally on my travels around Oz, I am horrified at the large number of people I meet who are using 8mpx -10mpx -12mpx twin-lens kit dSLRs and who, having shot their pix at full resolution, only view the results on the computer screen ... which is 1megapixel at best, and then, maybe, print them as a 4x6" via the local photo d&p shop. Whatta waste of a good camera

Hope this helps a bit

11-02-2010, 11:12am
Thanks for the feedback Rick, yarnella and Ozzie Traveller.

I guess the m4/3 is sort of a starting point for me, with the intention of moving up to a proper dSLR in the future. The boss (wife) seems a bit keener at the idea of a smaller camera that she can can manage comfortable and not be weighed down by.

Agreed that future-proofing should always be considered, and as Rick's said - long term might be an issue. We were initially looking at getting a Canon G11, so the m4/3 is a one step up! No match for the ASP-C sensors of course, but hopefully enough to get some nice prints to put up around the house.

Long term though, I can see myself migrating towards a decent dSLR setup. Hopefully the m4/3 will last me till then. ;)

11-02-2010, 8:45pm
Rick's right It depends on your requirements with your photo's wether you want to print huge or just large etc. I actually have the Gf1 with pancake lens myself and I think it's a beaut little camera. I love how sharp and fast it is and how stealthy you can get with it. I also bought it as a backup to my slr so I can use film lenses on it with an adapter :D

11-02-2010, 9:21pm
G'day again Paiyan

One thing that you haven't mentioned is "what have you got at the moment, what sort of pix do you take now, what can't you do with what you've got, etc etc"

If $$ is a big issue ('tis with me too) and "in time a full frame dSLR is a maybe" and "two of you are going to be using the camera, each with possibly differing requirements" ... then maybe one of the Qs you need to ask is "will one camera do both of you??"

Think of the ergonomics, hand/finger dimensions, body size, weight etc etc + accessories
If you were considering the Oly due to its size/weight, maybe it's time to look into one of the UZ systems [canon, fuji, panasonic etc] for year or so till you have a better feel for your requirements


12-02-2010, 2:11am
I've essentially got an iphone 3gs for pictures at the moment - my old kodak P&S kicked the bucket recently. Reason why we're willing to spend a bit of $$ is that our honeymoon trip is due in May - heading to Japan for 12 days. Hoping to take some decent pictures over there.

I'm sort of spear-heading the drive for a decent camera at the moment, hence the choice leaning more to my decision. Ergonomics, hand/finger dimension, body size, weight, etc would be aimed more for the wife. Reason being the possibility of me upgrading to a full frame dSLR - camera will become hers :)

I started off by looking at the UZ systems initially. Reason why I've had my sights set on the Oly is better quality pictures (correct me if I'm wrong here) for your $$. A decent UZ (i.e. Powershot SX IS, Fujifilm S200EXR, Panny FZ35) wouldn't be too far off from the price of the E-PL1.

So yeah - it's more of a search for the best starting point, and one that offers room to grow into full frame dSLRs. :)

Hope my train of thought isn't unreasonable..thoughts appreciated!

12-02-2010, 2:16am
P/S Phil (OzzieTraveller) - have seen your shots on flickr with the UZ. Impressive indeed :)

12-02-2010, 2:45am
The (dis)advantages of 4/3 are clear enough by now I guess, but do not forget to check if you like the interface of the camera. I have played around a bit with one of the previous models, the PEN E-P1 and that was a disaster. You need to go into the menu for a lot of small settings but also for something trivial like the aperture. Further more, it was slow as a snail and the automatic modes often chose completely wrong settings. Maybe this has improved on the new PEN E-PL1, but make sure you check that out before buying one.

12-02-2010, 12:29pm
Hi paiyan, FWIW I have a rather different view of specifically the m43 system and in fact am thinkining of dropping my DX system altogether.
But let me elaborate. Although a versatile system can fulfill pretty all of one's needs photographically, there will be certain things one do better. Almost certainly the FX or FF DSLRs represent the forefront of technology and sits on top of the price/performance curve. Beyond that there are MF systems such as the Leica S2 and hasselblad that offer outstanding lower iso performance but at astronomical prices.
Back down to earth we have the APS-C, 4/3, m43, large sensor p&s then prosumer p&s cameras, in that order IMO.
The main things that this group under FX/FF does better is pixel density, size and price.
So in my position where I do plan to buy into an FX system, what do I want in a system below and for me, it's size so the strongest contender would be m43. Hence I'm thinking of droppng DX and having both an FX and m43 system.
Now if u're on a budget, starting out and likely only wanting one system u gotta pick what u need from it. If it's best versatility/upgradability and performance for reasonable price I'd go APS-C. If it's best value I'd go a prosumer p&s. If it's best size for performance I'd look into mirrorless (m43). There'll be a lot more competition by the end of this year and it'll no longer command a price premium.
Btw I think I saw on 43rumors.com a gf-1 + 20mm 1.7 is selling for 599 or was it 699 usd so the price drop has already started.

12-02-2010, 12:54pm
Oops..that was 599 body only for the gf-1, not with the 20mm.

13-02-2010, 7:39am
G'day again Paiyan

Another thought re the Pen is the lack of a viewfinder (yes, I know one is available as an extra) but it's extra cost upon you. If/when you get a "nice bit of zoom lens" of whatever mm suits your needs, Q: can you hold the damn thing away from your body, focus, compose etc without camera shake??

Regards, Phil

22-09-2010, 5:22pm
Just bought the E-PL1. Using all my old FD lenses on it. Excellent sharpness. You can get a FD 50mm f1.4 for less than $80. That's a great combination. Finally I can revive all my FD lenses with big aperture rather than spending thousands again. But the VF-2 evf is a must though to manuel focus.