Micro Four Thirds – Olympus and Panasonic G Series Imagery and Thoughts on the Micro Four Thirds System

October 3, 2022

Having had the more than a year with the M43 system these are some thoughts. I am not one to do hyper-technical assessments of cameras. I like a camera that is intuitive to use and that allows me to capture an image according to my intent:

  1. The system suffers at higher ISO values. Birds in flight shot with my Nikon D500 stand cropping much better than images shot using M43 cameras. Use of Topaz DeNoise is helpful to improve noisy M43 images, without too much loss of quality.
  2. For birds in flight, the long lenses are good but neither the Panasonic or Olympus comes close to the quality of the Nikon 500mm F 5.6. That lens is silk, sex and sugar.
  3. Image stabilization is both systems is excellent, allowing me to shoot at absurdly low shutter speeds especially with fast lenses like the Panasonic 45mm F 1.2.
  4. The colors from both systems are also very good. I dial back the saturation a bit on all shooting modes. After a short term of use, the colors from the OMD M1 are especially good.
  5. Every lens I have used has been outstanding. The Panasonic Leica 45mm F 1.2 has spent the most amount of time on my camera. I also highly recommend the 40-150 and 300mm Olympus Pro lenses. These lenses are all quite expensive however. For an all-around lens, the Olympus 12 – 40 f2.8 is very good also.
  6. The menu system on the Olympus OMIII was complex to navigate. I can’t say I ever mastered it. The only system that is worse is the Sony menu system. For a photographer like me who shoots a few different systems, this made learning the OMIII menu doubly hard. I owned a Sony A6500 for about one month before selling it for that very reason. The new menu system on the OMD M1 is much better, being well organized and easy to move between different top level modes using the rear dial. The Panasonic menu system is much better than the pre-existing Olympus menu system.
  7. The Panasonic G9 is more ergonomic than the Olympus system cameras. Out of the box, frequently used controls are easily accessible without having to enter the menu system. I am sure that I could remedy this by spending time assigning functions to the buttons, but from flipping back and forth between systems I have a hard time remembering what button is what. Motto – if you love M43, stick with M43 and learn your camera well and it will reward you.
  8. A big niggle with Olympus for me is the on-off lever. It is on the left side of the camera and slows me down.
  9. Both the Panasonic and Olympus cameras are very well built and the bodies and especially the Olympus Pro lenses will withstand reasonable inclement weather.
  10. I have not owned the OMD M1 for long enough to have an opinion on what level of improvement it is over the Mark III. The menu system alone for me is a game changer and warrants the upgrade.
  11. I used the OMD M1 today experimenting with birds in flight. The continuous AF seems to track birds very well. I did not get any good opportunities with birds close enough to test sharpness or detail however. I’ll write about this at a later time.

Having said all of the above, I use the M43 system much more than my Nikon DSLR’s. I can carry more lenses in a small camera bag and be confident I have a camera system that will do what I want it to do the way I want it done.

Images from today, October 2, 2022 using the Olympus long zoom and the Panasonic 8-18 mm lenses. Only the sea spray and receding water were shot with the Panasonic lens.

Having a hankering to photograph wildlife, I decided to take the plunge and get a micro four thirds camera, a Panasonic GH5. I have a few nice lenses for it also. Having tried photographing birds with a Nikon and a long lens, I found that wasn’t for me. The image quality is surely superior, but the weight of the rig took the fun out of it. The micro four thirds kit is small and light, even with a 100 – 400 lens mounted, making trekking with a backpack easier on my quirky back.

February 28, 2021.

These images were shot on the Tiverton Rhode Island waterfront, some underneath the new Sakonnet River Bridge. I navigated under the old Sakonnet River Bridge many times in my sailboat and it was always a white knuckle experience from the riptide caused by the convergence of the Sakonnet River and Mount Hope Bay. I used the 100 – 400 lens, having tried to photograph birds earlier. It is a very nice lens, well built and it withstood some nasty rain yesterday. I realized after the bird attempt that I did not have the lens image stabilization on. I probably would have had better luck with birds in flight with the OIS on. I processed one image using a black and white toning filter, otherwise I just played with exposure and altered the whites and blacks, my usual editing method.

March 3, 2021

The Olympus 40 – 150 lens is a marvelous lens. I love the build quality, the ease of zoom, and the fact the lens has a depth of field scale.

March 23, 2021

The Olympus 40 – 150 is a very fine lens.

July 28, 2021

I can speak with authority now.

I had a hankering to try an Olympus OM body, so I purchased the OM1 Mark III. First impressions are: that 1) the menu system is overwhelming. There are subfolders stacked onto folders galore. I doubt I will use the camera’s capabilities and will find some advice on basic setup for my needs; 2) the camera is very quick on all levels. Using the Panasonic 8-18 lens, focus was more then fast and the camera responds immediately to the shutter. Write times are fast. This camera is a rocket ship and a powerhouse; 3) compared to the Panasonic G9 the colors from the Olympus using this lens were much warmer and to my liking. These images were shot with the natural color settings; 4) the camera feels fantastic in the hand; 5) the camera is super stealthy and discrete; 6) this one is a true keeper. 6) lastly as a general comment for Micro Four Thirds, this kit felt lighter than air in my Peak Design sling. Carrying a Nikon D850 with an equivalent lens would have stressed my shoulders.

At this point, I have made up my mind that the pundits who pan the quality of Micro Four Thirds imagery have it all wrong. The lenses in my stable, particularly the Olympus Pro lenses, are all superb. There is concession at higher ISO’s, but nothing stops me from pushing the Four Thirds ISO limits. With this system I am able to create good images without the camera getting in the way, it is as simple as that. For wildlife photography, particularly birding, this system is the best for me. I prefer shooting with the 100 – 400 Panasonic over the Nikon 200 – 500 simply because of the huge weight savings. Yes I can crop imagery from a Nikon DSLR (APSC or Full Frame) with less loss of detail, but the Four Thirds images stand cropping well. The image of the girl below is a fairly substantial crop. Tracking an osprey with a Four Thirds rig sure beats hefting a D 850 and 200 – 500, even on a monopod or tripod. The Four Thirds system wins for wildlife photography hands down.

Olympus OMD Em1 Mark III, Panasonic 8 – 18 (Capture One Preset)
Olympus OMD Em1 Mark III, Panasonic 8 – 18 (raised brightness, dropped highlights in Capture One)

July 30, 2021

I was out past dusk and decided to experiment with handheld at very slow shutter speeds. No, I did not capture anything worth posting, but the image stabilization is quite impressive. I can’t fathom why I would shoot a 2 second exposure handheld, but trust me, it is doable with the Olympus OMD EM III. These images were long exposure of between 4 – 10 seconds. I am not familiar with the controls and mistakenly had the ISO set to 2500. The original lighthouse images were quite blotchy from noise, especially in the sky so I fiddled with it in Nik Dfine and they became passable. One was of course converted to BW in Capture One. Tonight’s experience shows the system has limits compared to a Nikon D850 that is astounding at high ISO’s. Nonetheless, it was nice to mount the kit on a tripod and give it a run. The last image from under the bridge is a 10 (too short) second exposure raised a few stops in LR with no other edits.

As an aside the recent improvements to Capture One are excellent. Use of layers and healing masks, something I have never had the patience to learn in Photoshop is much easier in Capture One. I used layering to bring up some detail of the foreground rock formation in the bridge shot. There was too much light from the bridge, but I post it to show a lens characteristic.

The Panasonic 8-18 is turning out to be quite a nice lens. The lens elements do not rotate (not sure if this is the phrase) a useful feature for filters. Points of light render fairly distinct star shapes. Yesterday, the lens did flare some shooting into the sun, but pleasingly so. The image showing this is subpar and focus on the far parts of the image is spotty. I could not figure out how to set focus manually so I used aperture priority and fiddled with exposure compensation

EM1 Mark III, Panasonic 8-18
Olympus EM1 Mark III, Panasonic 8-18
OMD Em1 Mark III, Panasonic 8-18
OMD EM1 Mark III – Panasonic 8-18

July 31, 2021

Milky Way, Night

I gave the Panasonic G9 a run to shoot the Milky Way last night. The camera supposedly has a “starry night” function, but try as I might on the net and in the advanced settings manual, I could not find it. I used the Panasonic 8 – 18. Long exposures (not Milky Way) at 200 were decent with little noise. But from 800 and up the images were muddy and use of Dfine in Nik neutered the images further. The starlight images required more post-processing than I ever do. I should have put my 25mm F 1.4 lens on the camera to squeeze more shutter speed out of the camera. The 60 second exposures at F 3.3 – that is what the camera was telling me the aperture was – created star trails that detract. I will give this another try after studying up and practicing. It could be this camera is not the tool for astrophotography.

August 2, 2021

Cruise Night

My emotional thoughts on this gathering are on the main blog page. Camera wise the Olympus OmD Mark III continues to impress. I worked with the grip attached and it is a wonderful feel, completing the ergonomic perfection of the setup. These images were shot with the Olympus Pro 12 – 40. It is sharp and the focal length is extremely versatile. I spoke earlier about the warm hues from Olympus’ sensor. It turns out that my camera is (or was) defaulted to the retain warmth setting. I like the setting and will keep it there for the majority of my shots. I edited a few of these in Capture One’s Cinematic presets, a favorite of mine. The out of camera shots are superb. Another default from the box setting is the front dial for exposure compensation. This allows me to grab blacks easily, and I will keep this setting. I haven’t assigned functions to most of the buttons since the quick menu from a double click of the center of the control buttons allows very easy access to and change of most used settings.

August 10, 2021

This image was shot with the Panasonic 12mm F 1.4 lens. It is a very nice lens with good balance on the camera. I am using the OM EM1 Mark III here. The camera is gripped and feels wonderful in the hand. This image was shot at a wider aperture (F 3.2 I believe) and the edges retain good sharpness. This will be a good lens for astrophotography and other long exposures. I did not have to edit the straight lines, quite remarkable for such a wide lens. I was standing at an elevated point to help this issue, and I tend to alter the vertical orientation of the camera when shooting images such as this to correct for the problem.

OMD EM1 Mark III, Panasonic 12mm F 1.4

August 28, 2021

Harbor at Night

I set the white balance to tungsten and placed the camera on a wall behind this old dock. It once led to a restaurant, but the restaurant was washed away in Hurricane Carol in 1954. The Panasonic 12mm F 1.4 is a very nice lens for night shooting. I shot this using autofocus on the OMD Em1 Mark III. I really enjoy using this camera. It is super quick and with the battery grip it is so comfortable to use and carry. I still have not mastered the gargantuan menu system and probably never will. This image was shot at ISO 2000 at F 1.4 and the exposure was for 1.3 seconds.

Bristol Harbor at Night

September 1, 2021

More grooving on the river. I purchased the 300 mm Pro Lens, an extravagance. I took the lens out tonight to the river and the jazz band was there again, this time with a different bass player, this guy! I have to say, this lens is tack sharp and it gives me 600mm in a relatively small and light package. It is extremely well built and I like the manual focus clutch system that exists on the 12 – 40 and 40 – 150. This lens will be a keeper and useful in all kinds of situations, especially nature photography. Locking onto a bird in flight, something I have not come close to mastering, will be harder from the inability to find the bird wide then zoom into it. This image is not sharp, I got lazy and put the camera into P mode, but it still captured the rapture of a musician in his element.

OMD EMIII 300mm Pro Lens

March 13, 2022

The G9 struggled some locking onto the surfers from the surrounding distraction of the waves. Isolated subjects worked better. The 45mm F 1.2 tracked much better than the 300mm lens.

lasousa2015

Husband, dad, photographer, old camera lover, lawyer.

Leave a Reply