4/3 vs dslr

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by 4power, May 21, 2011.

  1. 4power

    4power Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Pennsyltucky
    As of late I'm feeling my old Sony Cybershot may have it's limitations. I'm sort of leaning towards a 4/3 like the GF1 or the Nex5. At that price I'm into lower end dslr territory and they seem to be a bit more versatile. I'm by no means an experienced photographer but have had a smoldering love affair for years and am looking to grow a bit. I'm sure a few of you guys know a bit more about the subject than me, what do you think?
    #1
  2. NikonsAndVStroms

    NikonsAndVStroms Beastly Photographer

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    49,993
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    4/3 is actually a DSLR standard Olympus and Panasonic use, micro 4/3 (m4/3) is what the GF1 uses, and as for an umbrella term to lump the NEX and others with it there isn't a good one yet :lol3 mirrorless is what is being said but they need something catchier.

    But to the things you actually care about....basically the sensors will be the same size of respective DSLR's, the GF1 actually uses the same sensor (there are some differences but I would be getting very technical) to my Olympus E-620 DSLR. The NEX-5 uses an APS-C sized sensor which is a little bigger and used in most of the Sony DSLR's.

    Now I am going to throw a monkey wrench into your plans in that the JPEG engines from Sony and Panasonic are lacking meaning to get the most out of it you have to shoot RAW. Olympus is known for theirs so the EPL-2 which is very similar to the GF1 would be a good option if you want to focus taking the pictures mostly.

    But here is the basic trade off/decision.

    With a DSLR it is bigger but you have a huge array of lenses to choose from.

    Mirrorless cameras are smaller but still new so the lens selection is still just a handful for each system.

    If you plan to just have this be a step up from your point and shoot a mirrorless is a good option, if instead you want to have options for everything but the kitchen sink to put on the lens mount go for a DSLR.
    #2
  3. Rashnak

    Rashnak Lorem Ipsum

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    9,868
    Location:
    Seattle
    if you are into video or smaller size/weight the m4/3 standard is the way to go. DLSR's are simply not very good at video yet without expensive workarounds.

    But for still pictures the image quality will be better on a dlsr at the same price point.

    As always, more $$=better
    #3
  4. boxermoose

    boxermoose Now fully goosed

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2003
    Oddometer:
    2,943
    Location:
    Gulf Coast TX
    Just bought the Olympus e-pl1 from BB


    So far liking it...but I know squat about cameras - I got it because it was better then a PAS and smaller then a DSLR
    #4
  5. NikonsAndVStroms

    NikonsAndVStroms Beastly Photographer

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    49,993
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    Except the GH2 (which is optimized for video) they are about the same for video with DSLR's. A benefit of DSLR's in this is they can mount a lot more lenses without an adapter.....those adapters (except for the larger version of that camera like 4/3 to m4/3) mean manual focus and aperture.

    It's hard to write this out since there are so many small exceptions.
    #5
  6. Bongolia

    Bongolia stop acting

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    18,398
    Location:
    In transit
    I have a GF1 with a 20 mm lens.

    The photo quality blows any of my old compacts into the weeds. It's small and relatively light and I can take it anywhere.

    Only two drawbacks.

    1: No viewfinder. I may get the separate viewfinder as framing in bright light can be hit and miss.

    2: Jpegs can have an odd colour balance sometimes. RAW is very good however.

    [​IMG]
    #6
  7. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    27,768
    Location:
    Minnyhappiness
    There's a certain satisfaction to composing a photo and hitting the shutter button, hearing a 'click' and knowing you just captured an image.

    It is a bit mechanical, a bit antiquated, and not optimized for video. That said, it just. plain. works. The size penalty from 'mirrorless' to DSLR is erased once you get into telephoto or wideangle focal lengths. I'm not sold on it for an only system. If I had 4/3 hardware, a micro 4/3 camera might make sense as a compact add-on.

    My $0.02. YMMV
    #7
  8. 4power

    4power Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Pennsyltucky
    I don't really care about video. If I was into that I'd just buy a dedicated video camera, to me it's just a gimmicky add on. If I'm hearing you guys right, the mirrorless cameras are much better than a pas but are still a bit of a trade off. And even a lower end dslr will offer the same or better picture quality with more versatility. I still like the integrated view finder and yes there is something satisfying about hearing the click. The only thing I don't like is the size, not that the dslr's are huge but they aren't exactly stealthy either. I also keep asking myself how am I'm going to manage the camera on the bike, that may be fairly important.
    #8
  9. Bongolia

    Bongolia stop acting

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    18,398
    Location:
    In transit
    There's a lovely 'click' with the GF1.
    And the body is metal and is very high quality. And the 20 mm lens is sharp. It is a trade off though.

    Love this photo from this blog:

    http://craigmod.com/journal/gf1-fieldtest/

    [​IMG]
    #9
  10. 4power

    4power Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Pennsyltucky
    I have to admit the I'm really drawn to the GF1 but I like having the built in viewfinder and the add on they have for it seems kind of cheesy. How's the shutter lag with the GF1? How does it handle action shots? Sort of feels like the which bike is best situation... you need more than just one.:lol3
    #10
  11. Bongolia

    Bongolia stop acting

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    18,398
    Location:
    In transit

    No lag, very fast AF, pin sharp. The build quality is something else.

    The lack of a viewfinder does hamper fast framing for street or action photography though. The screen is good but the usual visibility problems in strong sunlight. I've had a fair few bum shots where the framing was cropped incorrectly.

    I still love it though.
    #11
  12. NikonsAndVStroms

    NikonsAndVStroms Beastly Photographer

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    49,993
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    They use basically the same sensors, with mirrorless you get the smaller form factor, with a DSLR more lens choices.
    #12
  13. HardCase

    HardCase winter is coming

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    11,893
    Location:
    Griz Country
    I got an Olympus E-P2 a little over a year ago, which is a Micro 4/3 format camera. I'm not a terribly experienced photographer, but wanted something akin to a DSLR but smaller. I have several lenses, but as NikonsAndStroms states, they are somewhat few and far between although that is getting better as the format seems to be catching on.

    I have found that I actually take this camera with me and use it more than I would a larger machine. It's not as handy as a pocket P&S, but with a pancake lens it's pretty compact, and the picture quality is better. Does decent videos too.
    #13
  14. DriveShaft

    DriveShaft Long timer

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,943
    If your experience has been primarily an old powershot, I think these new mirrorless cameras would give you a great next step, & might ultimately be what you're happiest with.

    The size-conversation is something that could last for days. IMO, it's a HUGE part of the consumer camera purchase decision making process. So, because of that...it does make sense to talk about the size penalty for going dslr vs. Mirrorless or compact. It's HUGE (no offense, Grainbelt). And by that, I'm not referring to the actual size difference. I'm talking about the fact that the mirrorless body sits juuuuust inside my "convenient-carry" threshold, whereas the smallest of the DSLRs fit juuuuust outside of that threshold. It's like the difference between being the last person to make it onto the boat & the very next person. That comment is with respect to what most people compare between mirrorless vs. dslr--the body+lens comparison. If you compare the full kit...it's even more obvious.

    Let's, for a second, take a look at just the body+lens comparison. The pieces that you have stuck up to your eye at any one moment might arguably be similiarly sized. But consider this. When I want to roll lightweight with my e-p1. I can stuff the body in the back pocket of my jeans, and pocket the 14-42mm zoom lens or my 9-18mm wide angle zoom, or a prime in my front pocket. It's obviously not as "at-the-ready" as if I had the lens mounted. But whatever--I've got a camera on me & a damn good one at that. They're small enough & light enough where I'm perfectly comfortable doing that, wearing jeans. A good friend of mine has THE SMALLEST commercially available DSLR ever...the Oly e-420. Guess what...it doesn't fit in my pant pocket...not even close.

    Now, step back and consider the whole kit, and count up the volumes for each of the lenses...that's where m4/3 mirrorless really shines, because not only are they generally shorter--they generally have smaller diameters too--most dramatically with the wide-angle focal lengths. If you do the math it looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    The bottom line was that if you wanted to cover 35mmm focal lengths from 14mm equivalent to 400mm equivalent with standard zoom offerings (and "consumer-level aperture ranges) + one carry-around pancake, you're looking at a mirrorless kit that is at a minimum nearly 40% smaller than it's *smallest* dslr brethren.

    What's more...since the e-p1's lenses are so effin light...I don't even keep them in a camera bag--no foam padding...no "shoebox" shaped bag to carry around. If I feel ambitious and want to carry around my full kit, I throw three lenses, a flash, a gorilla pod & a body into the side pocket of a messenger bag...done.

    Am I missing out on anything by going mirrorless? Yes...your "hit rate" with action shots go down. But it's not impossible. You just have to adjust how you do things. In fact, if you're going from P&S to DSLR you'll notice your hit rate on action shots going down anyways, bcs the DoF you're used to getting w/ your P&S is way way narrower on these larger sensors, so regardless of mirrorless or classic dslr...you're going to need to do some learning & adjusting in that respect. That, imo, is the only way in which the mirrorless options fall short. The viewfinder blackout is longer than the mirror blackout associated with dslr ovf's. And its image latency is just the slightest few miliseconds slower than the immediacy of an Optical viewfinder. It's a manageable trait, imo. As they continue to speed up the imaging pipeline, that margin of difference will continue to get smaller. But that's a conversation to have with future generations of mirrorless.

    With respect to the selection of lenses available...if your intent is to own super-high-grade constant-aperture pro lenses, then yes...mirrorless cameras are currently lacking. That is to say, no mirrorless manufacturer product manager is stupid enough to spend millions of yen rolling out a 24-100mm f/2.8 equivalent zoom lens that weighs 2 pounds & fits on the body like 10 lbs of potatos in an 8 lb sack, when the pro market already thinks of mirrorless as a decidedly consumer-oriented option. That's just retarded. And it might be exactly what I want, but I recognize that it'll be quite a few years before the market is ready for such a beast. They've rolled out *sensible* lens options covering *almost* everything you'd need for just about every kind of subject. The issue isn't a lack of lens options. The issue is (for me) is that the lenses are pricey for their class. But such is the nature of new standards. It takes time for innovation to settle down.
    #14
  15. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    27,768
    Location:
    Minnyhappiness
    Your size spreadsheet is well thought out and demonstrates the differences in one area of the discussion basis a fairly tight set of uses and apertures.

    I never carry cameras in my pockets, I have at a minimum a tank bag on the bike and a messenger/laptop bag on me around town. The viewfinder, external controls, lens selection, and wireless flash control make the DSLR a better system for me. You could make the m4/3 cameras the size of a credit card and they'd still be a second camera for me.

    Point being, everyone's needs vary. The OP might not know what their needs are at this point, so it is good to discuss all facets of the choice, not only size.
    #15
  16. DriveShaft

    DriveShaft Long timer

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,943
    I absolutely agree, it's important to figure in the big picture...and not everybody has the same criteria, or opinions. Four of my friends/siblings asked me to help buy cameras in the past year, and we ended up with four different models--one p&s, one dslr, and three mirrorless (both NEX system & m4/3). Everyone's needs/taste differs a bit.

    Wrt the spreadsheet, I actually cranked out like 8 different views of the kit. That was for my own purchase, and I was just going through the math to figure out if it made a difference to me. In all cases, though, the size difference landed in the 4/3rds mirrorless camera's favor...even if you "handicapped" the mirrorless camera kit with relatively extreme rules, it was smaller by 21%. Comparing the high-end lens options...the DSLR kit was a whopping 68% bigger.

    I don't mean to diminish the benefits of DSLRs either. DSLRs definitely have some distinct advantages over the current breed of mirrorless. I *have* a dslr specifically because much of what I shoot really emphasizes the weak points of mirrorless at the moment, so it's easier & more pleasant for me to just go dslr when I need to, & go mirrorless when I want to enjoy the freedom of movement. Referring to the OP's situation, I was saying that if he's coming off of a purely P&S perspective, w/ a budding curiosity in the more advanced aspects of photography, then the mirrorless options give you plenty of capability, & still offer a more consumer-friendly blend of traits than many dslrs.
    #16
  17. Sniper X

    Sniper X De Oppresso Liber

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    33,465
    Location:
    Central New Mexico, 7420ft above sea level
    Shouldn't the titel be 4/3rds vs FULL frame DSLR, since the 4/3rds DSLR's ARE DSLR's?
    #17
  18. HardCase

    HardCase winter is coming

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    11,893
    Location:
    Griz Country
    My take, and what I've heard from a few other guys who seem to know a whole lot more about cameras than I do, is that you clearly cannot expect a camera like an Olympus E-P2 or similar m4/3 to match the image quality of a high-end professional DSLR with a $3,000 lens attached to it. But you definitely can compare it to a lower-end DSLR with its bundled lens kit. Given the choice between the E-P2 and the more entry-level DSLR, I would go for the E-P2 for convenience reasons. If on the other hand you're planning to build up a collection of top-quality lenses, then this camera is not a great candidate.
    #18
  19. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    27,768
    Location:
    Minnyhappiness
    No, the OP meant to say Micro 4/3. If you read his actual post it references a few mirrorless cameras.


    If you really want to get nerdy about sensors, there are various sizes in point and shoots, then 4/3, APS-C, APS-H, 'full frame', Pentax 645D, then medium format.
    #19
  20. NikonsAndVStroms

    NikonsAndVStroms Beastly Photographer

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    49,993
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    If you REALLY want to get nerdy 4/3 is technically full frame since it was a whole new standard not simply a crop of a 35mm system.
    #20