The following has been taken from Robert Rodriguez ‘Beyond the Lens’ blog that can be found in full here
Mirrorless cameras have come a long way in the past few years, and I can tell you they’re here to stay. I’ve been using the Olympus OM-D EM-1 system for the better part of the year, and I’ve received lots of questions concerning why I’m using it, and how it compares to my DSLRs. So what follows is a little background for context and my overall impressions of the E-M1.
My workhorse camera over the past six years has been a Canon 1DS Mk III, with a few Canon lenses: 17-40mm L, 24-105mm L, and 70-200 f/2.8 L. It has and continues to be an amazing system that provides fantastic image quality, 22MP of resolution, and tank-like construction that I have tested and abused over the course of many hours in the field. Suffice to say, I am extremely familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. One of the major reasons for purchasing the 1DS Mk III years ago was my need for the highest resolution possible from a DSLR. I print much of my work for exhibition and sale, and have many corporate customers that request large prints.
After six years of using the same camera with the same set of lenses, I decided I wanted to explore some other options, given all of the technological changes that have occurred since then. One of those was the Micro 4/3 format. I had already used this system by way of a Panasonic GH1 andGH2, which I purchased primarily for video. While I enjoyed the size and weight, I just couldn’t get used to the EVF (electronic viewfinder), and overall lack of image quality as compared to my full frame DSLRs. The EVF was slow, lacking in clarity, and felt artificial. My standards for image quality are very high, and so any system I use must really convince visually on my monitor, and in a fine art print.
Benefits of Mirrorless Cameras
I was naturally skeptical of any mirrorless camera at first; then I tested the Olympus E-M1. It claimed to have the best EVF to date, great image quality, tough weather-proof construction, and many lens choices from Olympus and Panasonic/Leica. The ability to use lenses from other formats via adapters was also a nice bonus. Olympus also holds a special place in my heart since it was the first camera manufacturer I became aware of as a young adolescent taking snaps of the family with my Dad’s OM-2 (which I still have.) I fondly remember looking through that huge viewfinder with the analog needle indicating the current exposure and being totally captivated by this new way of seeing and interpreting the world around me.
My childhood OM-2 next to my current E-M1
And after some research and careful consideration of the options, I decided to invest in the Olympus system. I also decided I would use the opportunity to explore some creative and technical options; fixed focal length lenses (primes) instead of zooms, and a different aspect ratio (3/4 vs. 2/3). I like shooting vertical images, but always felt constrained by the narrow 2/3 format of DSLRs. The 4/3 format is noticeably wider vertically, and I rather like that for many of my compositional tendencies. I hoped these changes would get me out of a “comfort zone” I’d come to rely on, consciously and sub-consciously. Perhaps this would push me to see things differently.
There was another factor, however, and it’s one I’ve heard from many others as well. I often found myself wanting a smaller, lighter camera system, especially when traveling or doing very long hikes. Problem is, once you get used to a certain amount of IQ and what I’d call “ergonomic functionality,” it’s hard to let go of that familiarity and confidence. I know every dial, switch, and menu item on my Canon, and that lets me get in the “flow” of making photographs rather easily. Change is often a scary, but necessary part of life.
The Olympus E-M1 has been a revelation. In addition to the reduced size and weight, it does not sacrifice much in terms of ergonomics, quality, or crucially in my opinion, a good viewfinder. Plus, any camera that gets me to make more images on a regular basis due to its portability is a welcome addition. Ask any professional what percentage of their time they spend shooting, and the answer is almost always “not enough.” In short, I wanted to shoot more by any means possible, yet not give up the benefits of a professional tool.
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