Wednesday 5 June 2019

Switching from dSLR to micro four thirds

What is it like to use a mirror-less M43 camera after years of using digital SLR cameras?

Is the quality acceptable from the smaller format used in this new breed of camera?

Now that we have made the switch, for us the answer is yes.


About 9 months ago my wife started to look for a new camera. While she was happy with the performance of her Pentax K3, it was becoming a pain in the neck carrying this heavy dSLR around, often accompanied by additional lenses and other accessories.

After a lot of research she settled on a Panasonic DC-G9. This mirror-less camera has a 20.3MP micro four thirds sensor, which is a lower resolution than the K3.

About the same time, the problems with my nice Pentax K30 dSLR caused me to ditch it and start using the heavier K3 monster. I've finally got fed up with carrying this thing around with me, so I have recently bought an Olympus OM-D E-M10 mark 3. Again this is a mirror-less camera with a micro four thirds sensor, but has a 16MP resolution, similar to my old cosy K30.

My Olympus is much cheaper than the Panasonic, but then I'm no longer as serious about photography as my wife (...she has just received a distinction from the Royal Photographic Society).

the cameras

The Panasonic G9 is still quite a large camera, but you need a shape and size that feels comfortable in the hand, and one that you can control. It is much lighter than the K3, and since the micro four thirds lenses are smaller than the dSLR equivalents, they are also lighter to carry. The result is that carrying the G9+lens around your neck is not a strain on your back like the K3+lens certainly was.

The Olympus E-M10 is even smaller and lighter than the G9, especially as I've initially married it up with a Panasonic 14mm pancake lens (yes, the two cameras have [more or less] compatible lenses). Initially, the E-M10 felt too small in my hands, but I'm getting use to it the more I use it.

In addition to this pancake lens, Olympus were running a deal whereby you email proof of purchase of the camera, and they send you a free 45mm f1.8 'portrait' lens. This is a real beaut!

steam punk Olympus E-M10 m43
Steam Punk girl: Olympus E-M10 + M.Zuiko 45mm lens @f2.0

My favorite lens on my old Pentax was a 10-20mm wide angle, set to 10mm. It produces images with real impact. Unfortunately my new 14mm lens has an equivalent angle of view similar to 20mm on my Pentax.

An American pedestrian shredder: Olympus E-M10 + Panasonic 14mm pancake lens

 However, we will be off to photograph Norway's fjords in a few weeks, so I'm sure the 14mm lens will be great for that task.


K3+10-20mm lens, G9+45mm lens & M10+14mm lens

what about resolution and image quality?

I think you can drive yourself crazy comparing sensor sizes and resolution between one camera and another. As long as your camera produces acceptable quality on your medium of choice (e.g. 10" x 8" prints, LCD computer screens or whatever) why bother to spend more or buy a bigger, heavier camera?

There are more important considerations if you are looking for a portable, hand-held camera.

E-M10 + 14mm lens, f2.5, 1/640, ISO200

It has been a while since I last bothered to print any of my photos, so as long as they are technically free of defects when displayed on a reasonably sized computer screen, I'm happy.

My wife needs both digital images and prints for various competitions throughout the year, but I don't think she has ever had a print bigger than 12" x 10" produced, and generally they are no larger than 10" tall or wide.

Her successful  submission for LRPS included 10 printed images taken on a variety of cameras, including not only the new Panasonic DC-G9, Pentax K3 and a Canon dSLR, but also one taken on a humble Fuji Finepix S5800 (...only 8MPixel).

micro four thirds verdict

This format is generally more portable than dSLR cameras.

Like dSLR, the ability to select interchangeable lenses to suit your style or purpose means you lose none of the creativity. Only Olympus & Panasonic have a common lens format, allowing a greater selection of lenses than many other manufacturers can offer. Other lens manufacturers also provide lenses for this format (e.g. Sigma, 7artisans, Kowa, Voigtländer).

E-M10 + 14mm lens, f4.5, 1/640, ISO 200

There are some compatibility issues to consider between Panasonic & Olympus lenses.

The Panasonic DC-G9 feels more natural in the hand for an ex-dSLR user than the Olympus E-M10, but the E-M10 is much lighter, and the more I use it, the more I like it. The Olympus also has a right-hand thumb grip which makes it feel more secure than it would if it was just a simple rectangular box.

Creating an ultra wide angle lens for micro four thirds is more difficult than it is for dSLR, so I'll keep the Pentax K3 + 10-20mm lens for a while until I find a m43 alternative.

For me, the acquisition of my E-M10 has revived my interest in photography. Within the dSLR sized camera case that I carry around my neck, I now have just a light-weight M43 camera, a second lens and a spare battery. Its a light weight camera package that I can carry all day without discomfort.

Ichabod Steam plays guitar at the Amberley Museum

This has not been a detailed comparison of features and functions between dSLR and m43, and it is certainly not a cry for those interested in 'format wars' ( can find that elsewhere on the net).

I have only mentioned those things that matter to us as a pair of amateur photographers, and I would urge others to think carefully about their personal requirements, before parting with their hard-earned money.

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