Looking at some potential photo kits

I’m still very much undecided between an Olympus M4/3 system and the Fujifilm X system. I really like the quality of Fuji’s APS-C X-Trans sensors and the image files they produce, but I also really like the compactness of the Olympus lenses, the advanced features of its EM series cameras and the completeness of its ecosystem.

So to try and advance a little further in my decision making, I’ve decided to put together some potential “kits” so I can compare the cost, weight and size.

I’m torn between buying a kit with 3 zooms (super wide-angle zoom, normal zoom and super-tele zoom) or one with 3 to 4 primes (24mm, 50mm, 85mm and macro). I would also be happy with a super wide-angle zoom, a normal prime and a portrait lens. However, the normal zoom is mighty handy for travelling! Decisions, decisions…

To make things even more complicated, both Fujifilm and Olympus have recently released new rangefinder-style advanced cameras with new sensors. Fuji with the X-Pro2 and it’s new X-Trans iii 24 Mpixel sensor and Olympus with the PEN-F and a new 20 Mpixel M4/3 sensor. I find both of these cameras very interesting but rather pricey and I do prefer an SLR-style body as my main camera. I would certainly like a rangefinder as a second and more portable everyday camera and as a street-shooter, but it could be a smaller and less-advanced one than these two.

However, rumour (and common sense) has it that both Fuji and Olympus will soon come out with new flagship SLR-style cameras that include these new sensors, Fuji with something like an X-T2 and Olympus probably with an OMD EM-1 Mk ii (if they continue with their existing naming conventions). It is almost certain that Olympus will do so this year at Photokina. Fuji however is a little slower and more conservative (took them 4 years to upgrade the X-Pro1!) so it is possible that they would not release the X-T2 until next year. I can either wait for one or both of these cameras to be released, or I could simply buy a mid-level camera from either system that would become my secondary body once I buy the new flagship. I will use the current SLR-style cameras (X-T2 and EM-1) for the sake of this comparison as I’m only comparing prices, size and weight.

So here are few potential kits:

Fujifilm w. pro zooms:

Item             Volume     Weight   Price
X-T1             568cm3     440g     $1,299
10-24mm f/4      415cm3     410g     $799   (15-36mm eq.)
18-55mm f/2.8-4  234cm3     330g     $300   (27-83mm eq. w. kit)
50-140mm f/2.8   949cm3     995g     $1,399 (75-210mm eq.)
Total:           2,166cm3   2.175Kg  $3,797

Fujifilm w. primes:

Item             Volume     Weight   Price
X-T1             568cm3     440g     $1,299
16mm f/1.4       309cm3     475g     $799   (24mm eq.)
35mm f/2         130cm3     170g     $399   (53mm eq.)
56mm f/1.2       293cm3     405g     $799   (85mm eq.)
Total:           1,300cm3   1.49Kg   $3,296

Olympus w. M.Zuiko pro zooms:

Item             Volume     Weight   Price
EM-1             740cm3     497g     $1,099
7-14mm f/2.8     517cm3     534g     $1,199 (14-28mm eq.)
12-40mm f/2.8    322cm3     382g     $899   (24-80mm eq.)
40-150mm f/2.8   792cm3     880g     $1,399 (80-300mm eq.)
Total:           2,371cm3   2.293Kg  $4,596 

Olympus w. M.Zuiko Premium primes:

Item             Volume     Weight   Price
EM-1             740cm3     497g     $1,099
12mm f/2         106cm3     103g     $799   (24mm eq.) 
25mm f/1.8       100cm3     136g     $399   (50mm eq.) 
45mm f/1.8       113cm3     116g     $399   (90mm eq.) 
Total:           1059cm3    852g     $2,696

I was surprised to see that the Olympus pro zoom kit comes out a bit larger, heavier and more expensive than the equivalent Fuji kit. However, they are not completely comparable: The Fuji super-wide zoom is only f/4 whereas the Olympus one is f/2.8. The Fuji normal zoom is a variable aperture f2.8-4 whereas the Olympus one is a constant f/2.8. The Fuji telezoom only reaches to 210mm whereas the Olympus goes all the way to 300mm equivalent at f/2.8. So here is another kit, with the much more comparable lenses from the Panasonic Lumix system, which is fully compatible with the Olympus. In this case the Panasonic wide zoom is f/4 like the Fuji, the normal still has the advantage of a constant f/2.8 and the tele offers the same reach. The quality of these zooms is a bit below that of the Olympus Pro line but very comparable to the Fuji.

Olympus w. Lumix pro zooms:

Item             Volume     Weight   Price
EM-1             740cm3     497g     $1,099
7-14mm f/4       321cm3     300g     $797   (14-28mm eq.)
12-35mm f/2.8    265cm3     305g     $797   (24-70mm eq.)
35-100mm f/2.8   366cm3     360g     $899   (70-200mm eq.)
Total:           1,692cm3   1,462Kg  $3,592 

Now we can really see the advantage of the M4/3 system in terms of size and weight. The kit with the Lumix lenses covers everything from 14mm to 200mm, weighs just over 3 pounds and would fit in a very small bag. With the Olympus Pro line we cover 14mm to 300mm at f/2.8 under 5 pounds and it fits in a slightly larger bag. Just for comparison’s sake and to drive the point home, the same kit from Nikon with the three f/2.8 Pro zooms covering 14mm to 200mm and a 24 Mpixel D610 would weigh a whopping 10 pounds, occupy more than twice the space and cost twice as much.

One small thing I dislike about the Fujinon prime lenses is they all take different filter sizes, whereas the Olympus ones are standardized on 46mm. On the other hand the Fuji primes have proper aperture rings, which I like a lot. Both Fuji’s XF primes and Olympus’ M.Zuiko Premium primes are superb lenses. The Fuji 56mm f/1.2 is a stunning portrait lens by all accounts but the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and the Panasonic/Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.4 are no slouch either. Olympus’ macro lens is much more interesting than Fuji’s which is limited to only a 1:2 reproduction ratio instead of the more common 1:1 found on the Olympus.

I do find the Olympus kit with M.Zuiko Premium primes to be very compelling for its superb optical quality, small size and small weight (less than 2 pounds!) It would also save me enough money to buy the excellent Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro and a good flash.  I could also start with just the 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom (which surprisingly cost only $100 more than the 12mm f/2) and the macro prime, that would satisfy most of my needs. I rarely need to go below the 24mm equivalent anyway. Later I could add a tele zoom.

If I buy into the Fuji system I could start with an X-E2s as a small rangefinder and wait for the 24 Mpixels X-T2 to come out. On the Olympus side it’s a little less clear as none of the PEN cameras have a viewfinder (necessary for me) except for the flagship PEN-F. I could go for an EM-10 MkII I guess, which is also a very compact camera.

So many decisions, so little time…