Deciding on which camera to buy today presents many challenges to many people, myself included.
Hobbyist will look into value and tech specs while your general consumer just want an easy to use camera that take good quality pictures (you know, an upgrade from their iPhone camera).
The majority of people just want to take great photographs. They don’t care about technical things like sensor size, type of lenses or apertures. They want to take great photos of their trips, vacations, and family to share on Facebook or Instagram.
My assumption is based on my friends around me. While a small minority will stretch their budget and buy a camera that will allow them to have their cake and eat it too, the majority still use their camera phone because they’re not looking at photos beyond what they see on their handheld screen (at the very most, maybe upload on Facebook).
What if you asked people to pick which picture looks better between a picture taken by a camera phone and the other with a dedicated camera of the same subject, person, etc. Most likely they will choose the picture taken by a dedicated camera.
So why not just take a dedicated camera with you everyday if you want to take the best quality photographs?
That’s where we run into a problem: most dedicated cameras are big, heavy, and cumbersome to carry everyday.
But what about pocket cameras?
Pocket cameras fine and they do their job well, but you are really limiting your options for a camera that is no smaller than a Sony A6000. First of all, you will have a smaller sensor – and if you’re not aware of this already, a bigger sensor will absorb in more light. This in turn will produce better image quality as far as ISO performance is concerned. The smaller sensor will also hinder your low light photographs since the amount of light gathering is so small, that your images will be negatively affected by higher noise from using a higher ISO.
So what is the next best thing?
In the world of mirrorless cameras, one group stand out to meet all your needs. The “in-between” camera to fill both rolls of an APS-C sensor camera and a pocket camera: the Micro 4/3.
Let me introduce to you to the Olympus OM-D E-M10
So the biggest advantage for Micro 4/3 mirrorless cameras is their size and man…is it SMALL.
Yeah, you’re looking at that right. It’s smaller than a regular sized iPhone 7.
Jordan Steele from Admiring Light summed it up perfectly:
It provides sharp images at all apertures, nice bokeh, and great color and contrast in a very small package. Olympus charges $399 for this little guy, which is on the pricey side for an f/1.8 normal lens, but it makes up for its modest maximum aperture with exceptional performance right out of the gate.
The only real issue with the Olympus 25mm for me, was that the f/1.8 aperture didn’t provide quite enough subject separation for a lot of what I shoot. It’s not a fault of the lens itself, but it did cross a bit of a line with me, and made it a little less useful than it otherwise would have been. For me, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 is a little better suited for what I shoot.
That said, if f/1.8 is fast enough for you, then pick it up right now. It excels in almost every way and is extremely small and discreet. Another great lens from Olympus.
This is where the Micro 4/3 sensor falls short in ISO performance compared to the Sony A6000 or other APS-C sensor cameras.
Here are some pictures from this morning at the Tidal Basin with Oliver. I will include the EXIF data in each picture.
The above picture is a poor example of ISO performance, but the next series of pictures have comparisons.
Now notice the difference when there is light outside and the ISO drops to improve overall image quality.
Micro 4/3 sensors do not have the same ISO performance compared to APS-C sensor when it comes to low light image quality. You just can’t beat the laws of physics.
CA or Chromatic Aberrations are a phenomena where you get unwanted color fringing in high contrast areas of the picture. The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 suffers from this but it’s not really a big deal.
The next set of photos are just pictures straight out of the camera to show it’s JPEG performance if you don’t plan on using Lightroom or Photoshop to edit your photos in RAW.
The pictures were taken with the Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, which is a superior lens over the Olympus M.Zaiku 25mm f/1.8 when it comes to overall image quality. The auto-focus is noticeably slower than the Olympus lens, so there will be trade-offs. The Panasonic is also cheaper than the Olympus, coming in at around $267.99 compared to the Olympus at $399.99. Whether or not the slower auto-focus performance is worth the cheaper price is up to you.
What you see is what you get straight out of the camera (SOOC).
Pics taken by Ben Drillick
Contrast and Color Rendering
The Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 has decent contrast and color, but still a little bland in my opinion.
Below are a couple of example before and after post-processing.
I would not recommend this lens for quick snaps in street photography due to the slow AF (auto focus). If you want something fast, then I recommend using the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 instead because that lens has very fast AF. The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 will suffice if you wanted a wider angle.
However, if you’re taking shots of your dinner, pictures with friends at a bar, or not a very dynamic atmosphere, then this lens will serve you well with excellent image quality.
Overall, this is a fantastic camera for beginners that are getting into photography or an experienced shooter that want a great backup or toy camera to carry around. Either way, the E-M10 is so versatile and convenient to carry, that the asking price of $399 for the body (that means excluding lens) is an absolute bargain for a high performance, compact camera like the E-M10.
I also highly recommend the Olympus 25mm f/1.8, despite the higher cost and slightly lower image quality compared to the Panasonic because I strongly believe that, for most people, the faster auto-focus will serve them better in practical use than a small jump in overall image quality.
- Olympus OM-D E-M1
- Olympus M.Zaiku 25mm f/1.8
- Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7
Photos by Ben Drillick