Saying that Micro Four Thirds (MFT) is the best mirrorless system is much like saying that Toyota builds the best cars. Could be true… for some, but it’s not true for all.
As I slogged my heavy Nikon DSLR kit into the Grand Canyon on a hike or to the South New Zealand Island for a walkabout, I began to eagerly learn more about the emerging segment called interchangeable lens camera or mirrorless. I was intrigued by the smaller size and lower weight, all wrapped up into smaller kits that offered, they said, comparable image quality. MFT was first to arrive and to flesh out a full system of lenses; I jumped in head first. That came in the form of one of the early Olympus Pen cameras plus a few lenses that brought me from ultra wide all the way up to long tele. Smaller and lighter for sure, but I didn’t feel the image quality was quite up to the challenge.
Fortunately, other systems emerged, including Fujifilm’s and Sony’s. With bigger sensors, these promised better quality than was possible on MFT. My own non-scientific testing bore this out. With these bigger sensor’d bodies, the lenses were much bigger too though, thus mitigating some of the mirrorless advantage.
The yellow brick road brought me into these other systems which had their plusses for sure. Fujifilm, in particular, won my heart as it offered a great balance of quality and features. But when I wanted to add lenses, I found some difficulties, namely that the tele option (Fujifilm 100-400) is gigantic and heavy (though quite good) and the wide zoom option (Fujifilm 10-24) is not weather-sealed. Most annoyingly, however, the high quality but huge mid-zoom (Fujifilm 16-55) has no image stabilization. And its results, for the price, didn’t consistently inspire sufficient confidence for me to keep it. I thought the mild mannered Fujifilm 18-55 kit offering was a better bang for the buck.
I’ve written about it here on these pages, but the past few months have had me back and dabbling in MFT. Here are the three primary reasons I’ve officially returned to the MFT fold and loving it:
- The PEN-F is a sweet, jewel of a camera. All the images shown here in this post are from the PEN-F. It is a joy to shoot, the sensor is a step up from the prior generation 16mb variants, and the jpeg engine is much improved over earlier offerings from Olympus and Panasonic. The front mode dial, a source of widely divergent opinions, works for me. And the simulations, particularly the monochrome ones, are useful and beautifully rendered. The PEN-F is one sweet ride.
- A diminutive 9-18 from Olympus handles wide duties in a package not much bigger than the small Olympus 17/1.8 lens. The Olympus 75-300 packs a punch, getting you out to 600mm equivalence in 35mm terms all in a comparatively minuscule package. The beautiful Olympus 12-40 stands in for moderate zoom needs. Getting the same wide to tele range in Fujifilm and Sony systems would be far, far larger and heavier.
- I have finally realized that the limit is me, not the gear. Sure, I can get better pixel for pixel quality out of other systems (especially in low light conditions), but it’s the composition that matters, the use of light, whether emotion is evoked from the viewer or whether there’s a story in there frozen in time and on two dimensions that count. Having the smaller MFT camera with me nearly always helps me make the image and if I’ve nailed the art, then the technical won’t matter as much. Alternatively, a technically perfect image of a dull subject yields little. I’m focusing on what I can control and where I can best learn and improve. MFT does not hinder this quest.
MFT is not the single best system out there… but my photographic journey has led me back to it. Back to the beginning. Back home.