From Full Frame to Micro Four Thirds
2018 UPDATE: Check here for a full list of my current Olympus gear, which I continue to use on a daily basis.
My photography gear has evolved quite a bit over the years. While size is the most obvious difference, that is only a portion of the story. My path is likely quite different from others you may have read.
For me, a bigger sensor wasn't the marker of a great camera. The real a-ha moment was when I tested the full frame Canon 6D against the Olympus OMD EM10. The Olympus image was sharp from corner to corner while the Canon gear produced a very soft photo.
I was shocked of course and wanted to share my findings right away. Could it be that an entry level m43 body could beat a pro quality DSLR? The post stirred up a lot of input and the response was overwhelming. Most everyone who read it criticized my testing process. While I admit it wasn't a scientific comparison, it was eye-opening enough for me to switch to Micro four-thirds completely. I sold all of my Canon equipment and dove into the M43 system without reservation.
The first true test came on a ten day trek around Iceland. It was my first traveling experience with all mirrorless gear. Battery life was a concern so I picked up a bunch of 3rd party Wasabi batteries. My kit was fairly stripped down as I brought two bodies and two lenses. On the OMD EM1 I mounted the incredible Olympus 40-150mm f2.8. The OMD EM10 was paired with the versatile 12-40mm f2.8. For extra reach I also brought the Olympus 1.4x extender. To say I was pleased would be an understatement. The intuitive nature of the cameras allowed me to shoot freely without the gear getting in the way. I was able to hike further, shoot in the rain, and most importantly, the image quality was amazing. You can see some of my favorites in this gallery. I also wrote about the experience in a guest post for MirrorLessons.
It was clear to me that these cameras could handle landscapes well, but what about more fleeting moments like street photography? For my next adventure I headed to Venice where I focused on people, specifically faces and hands. I felt like a photographic ninja, capable of swooping in and out while going unnoticed. I didn't only shoot candids though. For some of the shots I straight out asked if I could take their portrait. The people of Italy are so kind, and just about everyone said yes. I believe the low profile of the OMD also made it less intimidating as opposed to a large DSLR and lens. Having 81 focus points made it easy to create pleasing compositions. I shot everything in RAW and processed them to B&W in Lightroom. You can see that gallery here.
One of my favorite scenic shots from Venice would not have even been possible with my old Canon gear. Thanks to an incredible Olympus feature called Live Composite, I was able to create this 12 minute exposure without overexposing any one area of the scene. I watched in real time as the lights from the boat traffic were recorded onto the frame. This was yet another example of where the camera allowed me to bring my vision to life.
I traveled to Tuscany where I was shooting everything from architecture to vineyards. Features like the double exposure mode made it possible to create really unique images of oft-photographed sights. Not once did I miss my DSLR. Even tricky lighting situations that featured high dynamic range were possible with the mirrorless setup. For this shot I also used a graduated neutral density filter.
The cameras clearly performed well in travel situations but could it hold its own in a studio environment? I put this to the test with a floral design shoot under artificial lights. The client wanted very high res files for print and web. I shot most of the job from above while standing on a ladder. The sensor cranked out beautiful, clean RAW photos. The resolution proved to be more than enough for the assignment, and the photo director was quite please with the outcome. Coincidentally there was a video shoot happening at the same time. The videographer was using a Panasonic M43 camera. It seems that a growing number of people are realizing that M43 is capable of professional quality results.
The most recent addition to my kit is the Olympus PEN F along with a very small 17mm f1.8 prime lens. Remarkably, this is even smaller than the OMD cameras making them ideal for street photography here in New York. Some of my favorite features are the silent shutter, articulating screen, small body size, terrific sensor and image processor, and the various film simulation modes. I will post results after putting the camera through its paces.