I’ve chosen a new system: Micro Four-Thirds

I’ve finally made a decision. It wasn’t easy as I felt very attracted to Fujifilm both for the image quality and for the company’s excellent service, firmware updates and the fact that they are really listening to photographers.

But in the end, looking at my top two reasons for switching away from my Nikon full-frame system, namely reducing bulk/weight and reducing costs, the M4/3 system is the clear winner and the image quality is not really far off that of Fujifilm. I also find that Fuji doesn’t have as good a selection of lenses as the MFT system does and they are generally more expensive and a fair bit larger.

Comparison with 24-70mm f/2.8
MFT comparison with 24-70mm f/2.8 eq.

To give you an idea of the difference, my current kit which consists of a Nikon D700 with 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikkor pro zooms as well as a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro lens, weighs in at a whopping 5.88 kgs or 12.97 lbs. The lenses alone occupy a total of 3844 cm3. The cost of this kit is just under $10,000 (assuming the price of a D810 as replacement for my ageing D700). This is not something that I ver carry around with me in a bag or that I want to travel with.

Comparison with 14-24mm f/2.8
MFT comparison with 14-24mm f/2.8 eq.

Replacing that kit with a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon lenses, the whole kit would weigh-in at a much more reasonable 2.39 Kgs or 5.27 lbs, less than half of the Nikon kit. However, the wide-angle zoom is only f/4, the mid zoom f/2.8-4 and the macro lens only goes to .5x instead of 1X. The volume of the lenses alone would be 1827 cm3, less than half of the Nikon kit. The price of this Fuji kit would be $4445, again less than half.

Comparison with 70-200mm f/2.8
MFT comparison with 70-200mm f/2.8 eq.

But let’s looks at what happens if I go with the M4/3 system. Replacing this kit with a Panasonic system (using the GX85 and the Olympus 60mm macro as the Lumix macro is only 30mm), the weight comes out to only 1.57 Kgs or 3.47 lbs (again, the wide-angle zoom is only f/4). The volume of the lenses alone would be 1154 cm3. The price of this kit would be $3742, just under 1/3 the weight and size of the Nikon kit and a bit over 1/3 the price.

And if I go all-out with an all Olympus pro-zoom trinity and an OM-D E-M5 II camera, the numbers come out like this: weight of the kit is 2.43 Kgs or 5.35 lbs. The volume of the lenses alone would be 1833 cm3. The price would be $4946. So this kit comes out about the same size, weight and cost as the Fuji but with all f/2.8 pro lenses and a 1:1 macro lens so it still has an advantage.

         Nikon    Fuji     Lumix    Olympus
Weight:  5.88Kgs  2.39Kgs  1.57Kgs  2.43Kgs
Volume:  3844cm3  1837cm3  1154cm3  1833cm
Price:   $9,975   $4,445   $3742    $4946

However, my goal right now is to have a very portable kit that I will not hesitate to carry with me and also to simplify my photography and return to basics. So for now at least, I plan to stick with just a few prime lenses. The kit I’m contemplating right now is this:

Comparison with 85mm f/1.8
MFT comparison with 85mm f/1.8 eq.

Lumix GX85 camera, Leica 15mm f/1.7 wide-angle, M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 normal, M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens and M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens (I might add a Rokinon 10mm ultra-wide in the future). This whole kit would cost $2595 (less than the price of a D810 and including the 12-32mm kit lens as a freebie) and weigh only .98 Kgs or just over 2 lbs!!! The volume of the lenses would be a puny 550 cm3. So 1/5th the weight, 1/7th the volume (more like 1/8th including the camera) and less than 1/3rd the price of my current kit. I could carry this whole kit in one small bag and including some filters, flash, spare batteries, memory cards and a

Comparison with 35mm f/1.8
MFT comparison with 35mm f/1.8 eq.

mini-tripod the whole thing would easily weight less than 5lbs. Now this is what I’m after and this is something I can carry around most places with me, whether travelling or hiking. When street shooting, I would just carry the camera with the Leica 15mm f/1.7 mounted on it which would weigh about half a kilogram or just over 1lb.

So yes, I’m fully aware that the image quality of the M4/3 system doesn’t match up with that of the D810 or other high-end full-frame cameras. But after studying the differences for several months, it is clear to me that the differences matter mostly to pixel-peepers and that for most applications, namely web images and prints up to 16″ x 20″, the differences are negligible. After-all, just 6-7 years ago my D700 full-frame camera was considered by many as the best DSLR on the market and it had market-leading high-ISO performance. Yet today’s M4/3 sensors have more pixels and equivalent noise performance. If I consider the excellent and affordable fast lenses and the 5-stop in-body image stabilisation, I should actually get much better low-light performance out of the M4/3 system than I did out of my D700. Yes I will give up continuous auto-focus performance for sport shooting, but I don’t do that type of photography. I will also have to work harder to get shallow depth-of-field, but it shouldn’t be much of a problem with fast primes and I will gain the capability for more DOF which is also very useful in many situations. I will also gain things like 4K photo, focus-bracketing, etc.

Now I have to wait for the GX85 to be released. I’m also eagerly awaiting the upcoming Olympus E-M1 mk ii, which according to rumours should be an awesome camera.

Update: I found a fantastic deal on a slightly-used Olympus E-M1 and I jumped on the opportunity instead of waiting for the GX85. This is a great camera and I’m very happy with it.