Thursday, January 23, 2014

Big switch

I am testing new Olympus mirrorless camera, OM-D E-M1. Most likely I will change system, after almost 20 years with Canon. It is not going to be breaking news like when famous photographer switched from Nikon to Canon :-)

So far after 3 days of evening testing at home I could say that transition would require some effort. First of all I do not have all comparable lens with new system. I do not have decent flash unit so I have to make a decision based on what I can see now. For a while I got access to Olympus PEN camera so I am not entirely lost in their menu system. The advantage of OM-D is that it has all the buttons like DSLR so I do not have to dig into menu every time I need to make small adjustment to settings. In fact it probably got more that my Canon.

Lets start comparing. One of main reason for switch was size and weight. At 895g Canon is twice heavier than Olympus (443g). If you add professional L lens to the package, like EF 24-105mm it is additional 670g. It is again almost double of ED 12-40mm PRO lens which is 381g. So we start with 1565g vs 824g. If I go for a hike in a mountains every gram matters :-) I think one of the reasons I was suffering on my Mt Whitney hike was the weight of my camera bag it was 5lbs in addition to my 30lbs backpack.
Next "big thing" is sensor size. It seems that recently people believe that everybody needs full frame sensor camera. Yes full frame sensors have better noise performance but if simple bigger was better we would be running around with Hasselblads and I do not see it would happen any time soon :-). I bet current technology allows to put medium format sensor into smaller body but you cannot bend laws of physics it would require bigger and heavier lens. If only sensor is compared, yes 5Dmk2 has better one. I am not sensor expert so I checked DxOMark Sensor Scores for both camera sensors:

DxOMark Canon EOS 5Dmk2 Olympus OM-D E-M1
Overall Score 79 73
Portrait
(Color Depth)
23.7 bits 23 bits
Landscape
(Dynamic Range)
11.9 Evs 12.7 Evs
Sports
(Low-Light ISO)
1815 ISO 757 ISO

What does it mean? E-M1 only looses in Sports category. Let me put it into perspective. Why people need high ISO? Because when they shoot action hand held and they need higher shutter speed. I am not doing that. Shooting my daughter at playground does not count :-) Besides even with my current 5Dmk2 I would need faster lens anyway. If I disregard Sports category sensors are pretty much comparable.
Let me go a little bit further. Is 5Dmk2 with F4 lens at 800 ISO comparable to E-M1 with F2.8 lens plus IBIS? Because of camera weight and in body stabilization I most likely can go ISO 400 or less when shooting handheld and still got similar results. You cannot just compare bare sensors, lens and other features might totally change the equation. This is main reason I got E-M1 first. I will check if it can fit the type of photography I am doing and if answer is yes I can sell all my Canon gear. If it fails the test I can still return it.