The Small Sensor Argument

I have been following the discussions and feedback on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X everywhere as much as I can over the past week and I must admit I have not seen that much negativity on a single newly launched camera. I also fully acknowledge that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and free to vocalize their thoughts. I can totally understand the uneasiness expressed on the larger and weightier than usual body of the E-M1X, or how the pricing may not suit the general market. It is true that Olympus created the E-M1X for specific target group of photographers and that the camera may not appeal to the larger crowd. However, what I cannot agree and I feel I must say something here about is regarding the "small sensor size" as a universal excuse to condemn E-M1X and all other Micro Four Thirds system cameras.




If you are a commercial photographer shooting mainly for advertising agencies requiring as much resolution to maximize print size (billboards, large real life posters, etc) then medium format or larger system is the solution. If you shoot mostly black cats in dark alleys, or theater productions that are lit only by so few candles in a large hall, then go for the full frame 35mm cameras with emphasis on extreme low light performance. If you earn your living from landscape photography dealing with extreme high contrast conditions, or doing primarily astrophotography, then getting larger sensor camera makes sense. However, if you are doing any of the above for just 2% or less of your overall photography practice, are you sure full frame is the best solution for your use?

I am not denying the advantages of having larger sensor providing more latitude and headroom when it comes to dynamic range and high ISO noise control. At the same time, having used Olympus OM-D over the years for both my commercial shoots as well as personal photography use, I rarely find myself in a situation where the E-M1, E-M1 Mark II and the M.Zuiko lenses were not adequate to deliver satisfactory results for both myself and my clients. Yes, I have shot in extremely dark condition where even at F1.8 wide open aperture I needed my ISO to be about 6400 or higher to achieve fast enough shutter speed, and the images still came out usable and clients did not even complain about "noise". The ISO6400 image was then printed large (almost 5 feet in height) and still looked good. Here is the thing - that small sensor is not as incapable as you think it is. 

I chose to shoot my subjects in good light, as much as I can. If the light is not good, your image will be bad, it is as simple as that. Either you work around and use the available light to your advantage, or you create your own light with fill in flash or any other means (LED, reflectors, studio strobes, etc). There should not be an excuse that the light is poor and the camera struggles. As a working photographer, you have to be prepared for all scenarios and even in challenging circumstances, you can find a way to get good results. Camera choice is not the only alternative, and most of the time, may not even be the best solution. Even if you can shoot clean ISO100,000 image, if the lighting is poor, your image will look flat, dimensionless and dull. Colors will not pop.

Using smaller sensor, I have more depth of field. That means, I do not have to stop down my aperture so much and still get more zone in focus. If I use F8 on Micro Four Thirds, I may need to use F16 on full frame, and that will create a whole lot of issues, eg less light, under-powered flash and softness due to diffraction.

Olympus has come a long way, and I have not found a situation when dynamic range wasn't enough. This image was about 3 stops or more underexposed, and I managed to recover the details with no issues. The overblown sky at the top was intentional, because if the sky looked "perfectly balanced" the image would have looked too fake. 

This was an ISO6400 image. Seriously, I do not see any issues with quality degradation, or "noise". Of course "full frame" cameras will be better. There will always be a camera doing something better out there, but the main question is, am I happy with this shot? Is there any reason for me not to be happy?

Here is a shot of a Malaysian athelete jumping for joy after he did a successful lift. On the following day, I found a similar shot by a local journalist in the newspaper, and his shot was blurred due to motion. I nailed the shot while using a "small sensor" camera. Yes, this was also ISO6400, at F2.8 on the 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. 

I have shared on numerous blog articles on how I handled low light shooting with Micro Four Thirds system. I shall highlight the key tips and tricks here. 

Shooting discipline is important. I always make sure my shots were properly exposed. I can never get 100% accurate exposure all the time, but I can sure make every effort I can to get as close as possible to the ideal exposure for each shot. The RAW files from Micro Four Thirds cameras still have plenty of headroom for recovery and adjustments. Unless you severely under or over exposed your shots (you should not, if you did, that was your fault as a photographer) I do not see much of an issue. I admit there could be unique situations where the light can be extreme but there are numerous techniques to solves such issues - bracketing, HDR blending in post, etc. For 99% of ordinary shoots, get the exposure right and the images from even the "small sensor" cameras will shine. 

Use F1.8 (or brighter, if you have them) lenses. F1.8 lenses from Olympus (or Panasonic) are not expensive, they are compact, bright and they deliver sharp images. Shooting at F1.8 wide open, you can gather more light even in dark environment, allowing you to get away with lower ISO numbers. I have just recently added 25mm F1.2 PRO lens into my arsenal, for this sole purpose. If you shoot at F2.8 and you need ISO6400, I can use F1.2 and confidently get the same exposure at ISO1600 or less. As a bonus, these lenses perform incredibly well in low light. The new Olympus OM-D E-M1X takes advantage of the wide aperture opening and optimize AF in super dark conditions. With F1.2 PRO lens, efficient AF down to -6EV can be achieved, and I have personally verified this to be true!

Shoot everything in RAW, and learn some post-processing basics. If you aren't too familiar with how to clean up high ISO images, start with Olympus Workspace, and tinker with the "noise filter" setting. The default "standard" setting does a great job at suppressing high ISO noise and at the same time maintaining good amount of useful detail in the shot.

The biggest complain about using a small sensor camera, is the inability to produce shallow depth of field effect. I never had this issue and I have successfully created enough blur in my background to separate my subjects effectively even when using Olympus OM-D System. How much blur do you really need? Seriously?

While the E-M1X was designed for sports photography, this particular shot was taken with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III. No Phase Detect AF, and I did not even use C-AF. I relied on S-AF and I managed to nail some good shots. Yes, the E-M1 Mark II and especially the new E-M1X can guarantee much higher hit rate, but that is no excuse for the photographer to complain about his equipment. Use what you have and find ways to make it work! The camera is good enough and the photographer should be confident enough to use it. 

People often complain that the Olympus OM-D AF is still not good enough. Sometimes, I wonder how I got all these shots if the camera was so bad. 


I have been producing images with Micro Four Thirds and I have never once felt inferior or inadequately equipped to deliver high quality images. Here is something that many photographers I observed lack: being confident with what you have. A lot of photographers are never happy with their gear, no matter what they use. They always wish it was something else, or it was better at certain aspects. Lens not sharp enough, or camera not fast enough, or dynamic range not good enough, or color not the same as what they think could be better. All these thoughts on wanting the gear to be something it is not will not do your photography good. 

Be confident and know that your gear is good enough. You do not need the best camera to produce the best photographs. Having the best camera will not make you the best photographer. Heck, it won't improve your photography a single bit. 

As long as the camera is not holding back your potential, or creating limitations while shooting then all is good. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that gear is not important. I have always mentioned that selecting the gear to suit the job is crucial. You do not use a huge Canon 1DX Mark II to shoot a cup of coffee in a cafe, a simple I-Phone can do a splendid job in the hands of a capable photographer. Likewise, I am not expecting that same I-Phone to shoot close up shots of a tennis player hitting a running forehand. The right tool for the job. 

Why am I staying with Micro Four Thirds?

When I left Olympus Malaysia which was about almost 2 years before I joined the Olympus Visionary, at that stretch of time I could have chosen any other formats or systems for my own photography. Yet I stayed on with Olympus OM-D. 

The reason? Because the 1) the system just works for me and 2) I know the system inside out. 

The system just worked, again and again. It did not fail on me. Yes, the sensor is small, everyone is aware of that but I kept getting images that I was constantly happy with. Is that not the most important thing? If it was already doing so well, why would I want to look elsewhere? Just because some site claimed that oh that other "full frame" camera can shoot 50MP with clean ISO100,000, then I asked myself, do I need 50MP for what I do? Do I even go beyond ISO6,400? No and no and a better image sensor is not everything I looked for in a camera. I am perfectly happy with the effective Image Stabilization, reliable autofocus that consistently nailed crucial moments, and fully optimized small sized lenses that work well with the camera. If you have used Olympus lenses, you will know that these lenses are so special!

A lot of people underestimated the knowledge and experience in using a particular system. It is like what the famous Bruce Lee said, he was not not afraid of someone who can do 1000 different kicks, but he will be wary of a person who has practiced one particular kick for a 1000 times. Knowing how to optimize, work around the weaknesses of a system and at the same time maximize the camera's potential is important. I always frown at my friends who change cameras as often as they change their underwear. How well did you know the camera before you gave up on it? Were you realizing it's full potential? There will always be things that you were not happy with, there is no perfect camera. Sit with the camera for a while longer and who knows, it may just work for you. 







In one of my night street photowalks, I was shooting along two friends. Knowing that the streets we were going to were darker than usual, the two friends have their own techniques to shoot in such challenging environment. One of them was using an A-PSC camera and an F2.8 constant zoom lens, he decided to do everything in high ISO, requiring as high as ISO6400 in some scenes. The other friend was using a full frame DSLR, and decided to shoot with lower ISO but on a sturdy tripod instead. Me? I went on with the E-M1 Mark II and a 12-100mm F4 PRO lens, and challenged myself to shoot everything at ISO200. Yes, even in super dark night streets, I did everything with ISO200 and I got away with enough images to create an article, which was published on Ming Thein's site here (click). 

Obviously using high ISO (say, 6400), no matter how capable your camera is, will never beat the OM-D at it's base ISO200 in terms of image quality. To solve that issue, lowering down the ISO numbers, typically requires additional support, such as a tripod. The sturdier the tripod, the heavier it will be. Carrying and setting up the tripod for a walk is not exactly convenient. Movement is limited and "run and gun" is not a viable thing to do. Yet, the "small sensor" camera that I was using, the E-M1 Mark II, can just take photos, pointing at any scene, so effortlessly. The scene required shutter speed as slow as 4 seconds? No problem, the 5-Axis Image Stabilization can take care of that. 



Trashing Micro Four Thirds system just because of the smaller sensor size is quite a sad thing to witness. While I have always pushed Olympus to produce better cameras (and yes I do want an updated image sensor, hopefully in whatever that comes after the E-M1X), I am in no way unhappy with my current setup. In fact, Olympus OM-D gave me that sense of confidence, as it has not failed to deliver excellent results from any shoots. As a package - camera reliability, AF performance, shooting user experience/handling, useful imaging features, lens quality and choice and image quality, the Olympus OM-D system to me is quite a well-rounded and versatile solution.

I strongly believe Micro Four Thirds is not going anywhere, and yes, Olympus should be making MORE cameras and constantly drive to improve the camera's capabilities.

You may have your own experience which varies from mine, and I am interested to hear from you.

Important note: Please keep the discussion in the comments section constructive. Any trolling or use of excessive negative language will not be tolerated. 


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72 comments:

  1. Thank you Robin! It's always a pleasure und kind of facilitating to read these true words. A part of me already knew all of this, but reading the Forums, News, etc. in the Internet, sometimes makes me, well, uncertain even about the truth. Sovial Media have many dark sides and many users are not matured enough to use it responsibly. But before I lost myself in philosophical tirades, i stop :) Thanks again and I will try to internalize 'The Right tool for the job'. It's as simple as that or at least should be ;)

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    1. Thanks Philipp for the comment and it was my pleasure to share my thoughts. The right tool for the right job, yes it is as simple as that!

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  2. I believe the real question is what's the meaning of a such huge body against sensor size. None I believe has doubt about m4/3sensor capability but gut feeling is I a need suck a bulky camera why not go for FF. Still true lens size is still reasonably in favor.

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    1. Because, to build a truly reliable weather sealed camera and good handling for the larger, longer lenses (300mm, 40-150mm PRO, and the coming 150-400mm PRO), that size and weight is necessary. If you don't use these lenses, or not often enough for your shoots, then there are smaller alternatives. Full frame equivalent of handling such focal lengths would have been even larger and heavier.

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  3. Great article, all about light and images, not just equipment, thanks.

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  4. Thank you so much, Robin, for this article! I shoot exclusively with the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark ii and am generally pretty happy with the outcome of my shots. However, I have always been questioning myself as to whether I should have gone for FF simply because many professional photographers rave about the benefits of FF. Your article is exactly what I needed to hear to cast away my doubts and feel more confident about the gear I have! :-)

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    1. No worries, my pleasure to share, and you should be more confident with what you have and not have second thoughts! Keep shooting more, you will be surprised how amazing the E-M1 Mark II can be!

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  5. Very good argument, well made, in favour of the Olympus system. I still enjoy the original EM5 as well as an EM1. With something like the EM5 and either of the 17 or 25mm f1.8 lenses attached you have a great outfit for walk-around photography that fits in a lightweight shoulder bag, unobtrusive, easy to use, with great quality results, and without breaking the bank.

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    1. Smaller camera is the way to go for street photography! After the best camera is the one you want to bring with you the most.

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  6. Excellent article and outstanding images. Nearly all my shooting over the past 10 years or so has been with M43 cameras and I have gotten great results (not as good as Robin's). While IQ is very important, weight and size is an extremely important consideration. My camera with 12-35mm 2.8 lens is significantly smaller and lighter than a FF camera with the same equivalent lens. The lens weight-size differential grows with longer lens.

    Robin - thanks for an excellent article.

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    1. It was my pleasure to share my thoughts and experience and I am glad you resonate with them. Glad that you are happy with the Micro Four Thirds, and yes the size advantage is crucial!

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  7. Thanks Robin. I agree with you about your argumentation. I photography musicians and dacers in live shows whith Mk2, 75 1,8, 25 and 45 F 1,2. It is often possible to work at 200 isos ! So when new systems appears I am looking for, but at this date I think that Olympus is the best system for me !

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    1. Having F1.8, and even the F1.2 lens opens up a lot of possibilities, and it is great that Olympus lenses can be used wide open with very good sharpness and image quality. Glad to know that the system works for you, and it was my pleasure to share.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. I wanted to show what I said by recent examples but I am not able to put a link towards my photos. No importance (It is my first experience in a blog)

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    1. Don't worry Gilles, much appreciated. Where do you post your photos online? If you have a Flickr or Google Photos you may post a direct link to those albums here.

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  11. I couldn't agree more with what you wrote, Robin.

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  12. Excellent article, Robin. Thank you for explaining so clearly. I suspect that many of the people trashing the new camera have never used any Olympus camera and don’t really know what they are talking about.

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    1. Thanks Kathleen, I always try my best to be clear and straight to the point. I think we should spend more time shooting than worrying about camera and trashing them!

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  13. Well, while I can appreciate your thoughts, they are not the same as others. I would have been happy with the existing sensor, but could we not have had an updated EVF and improved video. If we keep saying we are happy with what we have and it works for us, then you could still be using 35mm film and an old Pentax and say I'm quite happy with it too.

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    1. If you read my article carefully, I acknowledge the frustration on other aspects of E-M1X, and I am not defending that. What I cannot tolerate, is the argument that just because the image sensor is "small", the Micro Four Thirds is useless. That is the only thing I was discussing in this particular article. I was not referring to the E-M1X specifically, but the whole system.

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  14. Fine article Robin. I agree. MFT is a great format. Like any format; one needs to learn how to use it. I'm a film photographer for over 30 years and the correlation between digital imaging and film format has a relatively small correlation any longer with the better modern digital equipment. In film my LF cameras always produced better more enlargeable images than my 35mm (or any 110 garbage), but digital has surpassed that. I still shoot film and have used full frame digital and MFT. I'll put images printed and enlarged from my M1 or even my M10 up against any others on display and find most cannot tell I used MFT format.

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    1. Thanks Bill for sharing your thoughts, and I respect your experience stretching back to the days of film! I believe you when you said the difference cannot be easily noticed and the final output speaks for itself!

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  15. The best camera is the one in your hand. I have a M10 and a Panny G85, and one of them is always with me. Great IQ in a system that offers flexibility and unmatched portability. Thank you for your article. I, too, have considered FF and have come to the conclusion that I would seldom need the high ISO and low light advantages it offers. Decided to stick with what I already know and love.

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    1. Thanks for the show of support, Aikiboy, appreciate your input. You have both E-M10 and G85, both excellent cameras that offer the best bang for the buck!

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  16. Some people never want to take responsibility for whatever they do, so they will blame someone, something else for there failure.

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    1. For me, it is important that we shoot more, and enjoy the whole process of photography. After all, what is photography without photographs? Blaming game won't get us anywhere.

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  17. I'm not trying to be inflammatory or troll... but why do M43 shooters need constant reaffirmation of their sensor format? I've been reading these kinds of posts for the last decade.

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    1. There is no need for constant reaffirmation. I was not reaffirming anything. If you truly understood the article, I was only sharing my experience as a photographer fully using the Micro Four Thirds system, as well as my photographs. I am contributing my voice as a photographer, is there anything wrong with that?

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    2. Also, if you have been following this blog and are familiar with what I do, you will know that sharing about Micro Four Thirds (techniques, shoot jobs experience, personal experiments, fresh photographs from my shutter therapy sessions, and my philosophical point of view) is what I do here. There is nothing "reaffirming" at all, it is just what I do, and why this blog is alive.

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    3. Are you the same CTK as on The Car Lounge?

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    4. Maybe not so much a question of "reaffirmation", rather it´s just the tiresome fact that way too many "outside" the m43 user base spend such huge amounts of energy simply in order to Bash, Trash and Attack those (us) that use this system. As if we don´t know what we´re doing.
      We surely know about both its pros, and like them enough to stay in the system, and also we know its cons, and live with them.
      If "we" really can´t stand the cons, we may get a second/parallell system or choose to go over to another system..simple as that.

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  18. I think most true experienced working professional photographers will know their own mind and their own kit. Most criticism comes from occasional amateurs who prefer to talk about their kit on forums, rather than getting outside and using it. My own experience of friends/colleagues with FF cameras is this: If it is a planned shoot, they will lug their kit to the location and do their best, getting 1 good one out of 5. Any other time, they only have their point-and-shoot (clearly because the FF kit is too much hassle to bring on-spec. As and OM-D EM5 user with 25mm & 45mm F1.8 lens, I always bring the same camera (with a shutter count approaching 80,000) and get 4 out of 5 good shots because I know what I am going to get, and how to achieve it. "The best camera is the one you have with you"!

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    1. Well said, the right camera is the one you have with you. Knowing your own equipment is important, and knowing how to maximize the potential and work around the weaknesses can bring results. The E-M5 is a fantastic camera! I still have mine, and loving it too.

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  19. ...and as an aside, only on Micro Four Thirds can you use a lens that is smaller than an apple and looks like a kid's toy, yet produces unbelievably sharp and rich images (yes, the 25mm f1.8!) So the discussion should not be so much about the sensor or camera, as about the whole experience. The portability of the EM-5 with lens is what ensures that I always have it with me.

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    1. Sometimes I am still a bit skeptical about how such tiny lenses can work so well. yet, the results speak for themselves, looking at the final images, I was very happy and continued using the lenses. My favourites are 25mm and 45mm F1.8

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  20. Wow ! Right on !!! How true it is that the equipment doesn't make the photographer; talent, technique and artistic sense do. I do nature photography, mainly birds, and I often think my equipment is not up to par: better focus for BIF, better low light photography, not enough reach, etc. Your article made me realize that maybe I don't work hard enough, that I should experiment more, practice more and that my results are in fact quite good. In reality, the EM-1 Mk II, PL 100-400mm, Oly 12-100mm and 12-40mm I am using are just what I need: affordable, reliable, light and small, no need for a tripod, and I can carry them all day without tiring: perfect ? definitely not, but they do the job very well and give me very nice photos. Thanks for the great article.

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    1. Thanks JulesG for the kind comments and yes, we need to work harder to get results, and should not resolve to easily blame the limitations of our equipment!

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  21. The article focuses on what you really need in normal photography.
    I have read quite some views on the M1X, and the topics mainly are Picture resolution and low-light capability. However, f.i. the Sony A7 FF camera comes in two Versions,- a + 20Mpixel and a + 40 Mpixel. The +20 Mp more or less lines up With the M1X resolution With respect to the pixel Count, and this is the Version to consider for low-light situations. That's because the light sensitivity is also a function of pixel size.Regardless of manufacturer of the chip. So what's so wrong With the M1X sensor for all practical purposes?
    Also a camera system's light capability incorporates the lens' performance. Also With respect to size and portability (+ price is also a topic). Compare the light transmission through a MFT F2.8 to a FF F4 tele-zoom ? The first is quite portable and achievable while the ,more or less, price-comparable FF F4 lens is bulkier and heavier than a MFT 2.8 quality zoom. IF you step up to a FF F2.8 telezoom...
    So, there's always a trade-off With respect to final photographic result.
    I have used an Olympus e-m5 , absolutely first edition,and I can not remember any situation where the m5's light capacity was the main issue. Not in Thanda game reseve

    following Cheetahs preparing their hunt in very low-light conditons, nor in very low-light conditions in Church taking Pictures of children's choir.
    The main issue in fact was shutter sound !

    So, I think the Author of the article put Things in perspective pointing to which are Your needs and when do you actually take Pictures in the middle of the night in the middle of the Wood.
    Not being a pro, nevertheless I appreciate quality Pictures and even the old MFT m5
    continues to surprisepositively.Looking forward to full reviews of the M1X , though.

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    1. I also owned an E-M5 and its only real weakness for my needs was autofocus for BIF. Of course my E-M1 Mk II is a much better camera in all respects but the E-M5 was doing the job quite nicely also, except for those *** BIF. If you go back in history and look at the work of the great photography masters, you see outstanding photographs, works of art, and they had equipment that would make us cry !!! It is the photographer behind the camera that counts

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    2. I love the E-M5 too, and still own one today. I still take it out for street shooting from time to time, and it is such a joy to use. The E-M5 is the camera that defined what a mirrorless compact camera system should be. Small, compact, and capable all round.

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  22. First off thank you Robbin for the article and sharing your photographs as examples. I have been trying to ignore the negative banter online about the E-M1X. As far as I know there is not a camera that can do what it can do on the market. I could go on but that is the bottom line for me. It is specialised equipment for a particular customer and I expect that it is solid and works extremely well. End of story. In my general experience professionals just appreciate good tools and good results and are less hung up on all the other noise ;)

    As for the sensor size being less capable it is so frustrating. As stated above if you want high resolution in full format your are going to get similar noise. The sensor is twice the size so I guess you can crop more if you have to but this is not what people keep harping on about. The bottom line is you are getting the same quality sensor as lets say the Hi Res sensor in the Sony system but it is half the size. I do not see people dumping all over the Sony Hi Resolution version of the full format cameras. And as you state having a larger depth of field is just as much a positive as a negative. It is simply different than full frame not better or worse. I would concider myself to be very serious about bokeh and there is no better system in the world for bokeh than mirrorles/M43. Give me a Lensturbo II for FD & M42 and you have access to the best bokeh you could ever hope for.

    To be honest I there is a part of me that wants Olympus to release something like an EM10 MKIII in a 12 MP sensor resolution with amazing low light performance. Or even an EM10 MKII with a 12MP sensor for a great price. Not all situations requite mega resolution.

    Thanks again for the positive message it is always refreshing!

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    1. Your suggestion of lower MP but better high ISO is relevant and I think the camera companies should not ignore. Panasonic did that with their GH5S, but the advantage of high ISO handling only comes in play when shooting video, not stills. I hope they (anyone, Panasonic or Olympus) can create something that specializes on better per pixel optimization, even if that means at the expense of lower overall pixel count. Who knows, we can have more options as consumers!

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  23. I have been shooting Olympus M4/3 for many years, along with many other brands and formats. I still consider the E-M1 my primary camera, even though it is six years old. It is not going anywhere (and nor is my bookmark for this site;)). I don't see myself owning an E-M1X anytime soon, but then again who knows what the future will bring. It seems to be an amazing tool and I am after all a bit of an Olympus enthusiast. Keep up the good work! / Martin

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    1. Thanks for the kind words and also show of support, Martin, I appreciate that. Keep on shooting and I still keep 2 units of E-M1 with me!

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  24. I love your photos. They are so sharp. Do you feel the sharpness differs from lens to lens ?

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    1. Yes, primarily sharpness is very lens dependent!

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  25. Thanks for the article Robin. I always admire your photos and steady hands and appreciate your views.

    I am often amused when people see my photos and one of their initial questions will be 'what camera did you use?'. I think with digital, people have lost an awareness of how to get a good photo. I tend to think there are 5 ingredients to getting a good photo (in order of importance):
    1) Light
    2) Subject
    3) Composition (the artistic eye)
    4) Technical skill
    5) Camera
    It seems that often people will think the camera makes a great photo. But to me it is the situation and the person behind the camera that are far more important.

    I have noticed that with a lot of the negative comments about the EM1X they are coming from people that have little experience of simple cameras and likely have never worked with film. In some cases they seem to be relying on chimping to get the photo they want rather than understanding the techniques of photography. Very much a case of trial and error photography or relying on the equipment to make up for their lack of skill.

    As others have said above, the best camera is the one you have with you. The size of the system is a major benefit to me, with > 90% of my photography done while travelling or hiking. I shot with OM film cameras for around 20 years and always appreciated the size. When I moved to digital I started with an E-1 before moving to an E-5. I tolerated the size and weight but was very much aware of the weight increase. When I moved to an EM-1 it reawakened my appreciation of compact bodies. I view the EM-1 (and especially the Mark II) as a miniature jewel. I look at the E-1 and E-5 and think 'what a brick'.

    I have no desire to have a dramatically increased sensor size. I aim to get the photo at time of capture both in exposure and framing, rather than fixing it in post. I like where Olympus are going with a priority on lenses, electronics, handling, and robustness. Olympus continue to be one of the great innovators in cameras. Olympus continues to work for me.

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    1. You are right when you mention that your priority is getting the shot (exposure and framing), that itself is more crucial than getting more megapixels or cleaner output. After all, what is the point of photography if you can't nail the moment in the first place? Getting the shot should be the most important thing, and Micro Four Thirds system somehow gave me that confidence to get the shots.

      Olympus is trying to broaden their options in terms of what they can do with the Micro Four Thirds system. The online community acted as if Olympus has abandoned making small cameras. Just because there is one E-M1X, it does not mean all future cameras will be made into similar size and weight!

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  26. Thank you Robin for such a thoughtful writeup. I own a good range of cameras, including the E-M1.2, which I think is just a technological marvel. To me, there are times that being able to shoot wide open while wanting more DOF, the m43 is ideal. Size to me used to be a big advantage as well, but in my recent Safari trip to Tanzania, I began to question the size advantage. Let me explain: On the Safari trip, I brought the E-M1.2 with the Panasonic Leica 100-400 (among other m43 lenses) and my Sony a7R III with the FE100-400 lens (among others).
    https://camerasize.com/compact/#692.505,724.660,ha,t
    Of course, the 100-400 on the EM1.2 means 800mm reach, doubling that of the 400mm reach on the a7R3. However, when if I enable APS-C mode on the a7R3, I end up with a 650mm (eq) with 18MP, which is actually slightly more than the EM1.2 if I choose 3:2 mode. 650mm is still not 800mm, but once I throw in the 1.4x TC on the lens, I get 840mm in APS-C crop mode. And frankly, the pixels from the a7R3 are really 'cleaner' than the EM1.2 at higher ISOs.
    The size difference is almost negligible. The Sony setup is a little heavier. I am saying, while m43 cameras are getting heavier and bigger, and with Sony and other FF Mirrorless getting smaller and lighter, the weight and portability advantage of the m43 system is slowly disappearing.
    I continue to shoot with both m43, FF, and MF systems, and I do find each system has their respective advantages, but if size and portability are meant to be m43 advantages, Olympus should really focus on them before the competing systems catch up.

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    Replies
    1. I can't speak for the Panasonic 100-400mm lens, as I have not used it enough. BUt what I know is that the Olympus 300mm F4 is tough to beat in terms of sharpness, and the ability to hand-hold without raising the high ISO unnecessarily. Then again I was not with you when you shoot in the safari so I can't make any conclusions either. I shall take your word for that situation.

      Delete
  27. Fantastic article Robin! I love my E-M1.2 and you’ve inspired me to make sure I know the camera top to bottom. I’m an enthusiast, not a pro by any means and it’s easy to get confused by all of the hype. Olympus makes awesome cameras and awesome glass. It’s crazy how the haters out there constantly want to trash m4/3 sensors. Another advantage, cost....I bought the 40-150 f2.8 pro lens and 1.4x teleconverter. The cost of an equivalent speed zoom lens for a full frame camera would be out of reach for An enthusiast like me.

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    Replies
    1. That is so true. what a lot of people missed out is that Olympus makes amazing lenses at reasonable cost. Yes the lenses are not cheap, but at the similar quality, you will need to fork out a lot more if you go to other systems!

      Delete
  28. Of course, there is a good reason for everything--and then, there are people who just complain.

    Having been an Olympus fan since the 1970s and the OM-1N, I wonder about the E-M1x as a symbol of the 100th year anniversary of the company.

    I only have two camera bodies at this time, because I was homeless for a while. I have the Panasonic GH4 and the GM5. These suit me fairly well.

    The size of the E-M1x is not a problem for me. (Putting the Four-Thirds SHG 35-100mm f/2.0 on it would almost be acceptable.) What bothers me is that it hasn't advanced much over the E-M1 Mk II and doesn't seem much like what a company would want to remember on its big anniversary.

    I hope that they know where they're going.

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    Replies
    1. What makes you think the E-M1X is the anniversary camera? *wink wink

      It is good to hear from you again, Saka-san. I hope all goes well on your side. But trust me when I say this, E-M1X is NOT their anniversary camera.

      Delete
  29. Always when I am dissatisfied with my Olympus-gear I come to your blog and have a look at the photos, so I remember that it ain't the camera but the photographer, that is responsible for the lacking image quality and that I have to work on my skills. You write about confidence as photographer, but I think it is foremost competence. Your pictures are just amazing and inspiring. And a big thanks for all the useful information you share.

    Greetings form Austria

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind comments and show of faith. Keep on shooting!

      Delete
  30. I bet there are no carpenters that have had clients ask them what brand tools they use. Our cameras are merely tools to accomplish a task whether art or journalism, etc. Why pretty soon folks will expect the camera to make the image for them without input from photographer at all. I think folks are jealous Olympus always comes out with innovative ideas first.....

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  31. Great as always. I love the way you back up your comments with relative images; very inspiring. I am a simple enthusiast and all the arguments trying to push perfection in gear do not interest me. My interest is getting the shots I want with the Olympus hear I have, and that is where you excell and inspire. Keep it coming.

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  32. Let me first say how much I like your images published here and on Ming's web site, and that I am a dedicated M43 user, with 2 bodies and 8 lenses. That said, the current m43 criticism is primarily based on Olympus introduction of what is the largest and heaviest mirrorless camera (excluding any MF models) with the smallest sensor in any currently marketed ILC system. In addition, Olympus did not seem to materially improve image quality (for stills) over the 2 year old EM-1 II, or use any of the sensor tech enhancements (like BSI or stacked sensors) that is currently being incorporated by many of its competitors (Sony, Nikon, Fuji). In my opinion, some of the criticism is legitimate, and my concern is that Olympus is moving too far from what made the original EM-5 so great. As you said above, "The E-M5 is the camera that defined what a mirrorless compact camera system should be. Small, compact, and capable all round". I believe that Olympus needs to provide improved high ISO and DR performance plus reliable C-AF tracking in a 1/2 kg camera that is competitively priced.

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  33. Hi Robin

    Great article and as always lovely shots.
    As an aside - can I ask you about your camera bag that you are using in this article

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  34. I own digital PEN cameras, being a hiker, I started with the EPL1 and have amassed quite a few iterations stopping at the 2 EP5's. I have a few wonderful lenses, the 25mm, 45mm, 75mm and the 12-40mm. I've been shooting Olympus since 2009.

    It does come down to choice and using the tool that works for each individual. As much as I love my Oly's, I got to the point where I needed better high ISO performance and richer files, and I just wasn't getting that with Olympus. I loved the files until I pulled the trigger and purchased Fuji, specifically the XPro1 and XE2( I don't print large so 16MP is my limit). I didn't know what I was missing out on till I processed my first Fuji files. ISO 6400 perfectly acceptable without any NR! I now shoot with vintage adapted lenses from Pentax, Minolta, Yashica and Konica and with manual focusing (I shoot with both the Oly and Fuji with focus peaking) , it has dramatically changed the way I shoot and compose. Not to mention, that for the price of 1 75mm Oly, I can get 10-14 mint vintage glass. The beauty of mirrorless cameras!

    What did I miss about the Olympus? That wonderful IBIS that is class leading, bar none. Needless to say, if I'm going out on a hike or just need a compact, light system, the EP5 comes with me with the 25mm f/1.8. If I wanted richer files and it's not much of a trek, my Fuji's come with me.

    I appreciate both systems, each has their intended use and purpose. It's no different than owning 2 cars, one is my daily driver, the other, for those special occasions. I appreciate what each system can offer and use the right tool for the occasion.

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  35. I had a busy week and also zone out when I experienced so much negativity and worse, toxicity from outside the Olympus camp as well as within the Olympus forums. We're currently in the era of loud mouthed Youtube "reviewers" who are self serving more than serving us and lots and lots of sheep or lemmings who do the "chicken little" thing. Oh, and people who think Olympus exists only to serve them rather than pursue its goals. It's not just Olympus suffering. Canon is being hit by people who can't imagine why anyone would buy the RP, Nikon by having on XQD slot, Panasonic S1 for being too big. It's negativity and toxicity. https://anandasim.blogspot.com/2019/02/has-camera-buying-become-like-hifi.html

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  36. Excellent article and never so precise and apt words.
    I share everything you have written, I have been in the Olympus system for decades (E1) and I am extremely satisfied, the portability and the optical quality that is achieved with the cameras and lenses Oly. and fantastic for me, for what I want to get from my photos and my way of photographing.
    I do not regret the APSC nikon system I had and I do not feel the need of the FF, with the micro four-thirds system I feel satisfied.
    Thank you for your articles and your wonderful reviews, you wrote a great truth, you should think of good photos not to change often equipment.
    After almost two years with M1 mark2 I do not know that for 30/40% I still have a lot to learn.
    I always follow you. Good Light

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  37. Robin, first of all thanks for this article. i fully agree with you. I startet photography 40 years ago with film, "Full Format" on a Canon AE-1 Program and later moved to medium format for a while, all strictly amateur. For a very long time, I was not really satisfied with my pictures. I went digital quite late, since I loved to work in my darkroom, mostly in B/W (I did color, but did not love it). For a long time, I used Canon APS-C Cameras and was quite happy with that, never really wanting to shell out the money for a Full Format body (and lenses that would make sense). After a while, I realized that I took most of my pictures with my iPhone, because even the 70D with lenses was to heavy to have with me most of the time. This was when I decided to buy a Oly M10-ii as a lightweight setup, planning to still use the 70D for most work where weight is not an issue. I mainly do portrait, music and theater performace work these days and I took my new toy to a theater production I took part. There was an official photographer attached to this production, who would haul a full professional Canon full format rig with alll "L"-Lenses and so on. I would be there with my toy camera, most actors thinking it was a old analog rig. I only had the kit lense there, but light was good since it was an open air production and I came away with some pretty good pictures. I got (secretly) the feedback that my pictures where better than the ones shot by the pro.
    To come to the point: The "technical quality" of the full format pictures was certainly better than mine, but not to a point really noticable. The official guy is a very capable photographer, but everybody was tensing up when he would come in with the big stuff, but I could get close by, mostly unnoticed and not perceived as a threat. Later, I got myself some 1.8 Oly prime lenses, and these are really amazing. So, I did not pick up my 70D since I got the Oly, and I think I should sell it off and get a used FF instead, because I think the difference between MFT and APS-C is not really relevant for my work. And I would still be using the MFT setup most of the time, because I am to lazy to lug around the heavy equipment any more. And: The picture is taken by the guy holding the camera, not by the camera. Cheers, Aschwin

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  38. Arguments about sensor size as you well point out Robin have always been and always will be ridiculous. Like film size each has its use.

    You would not have taken landscapes with a 16mm Minox, nor would you have used a 8"x 10" view camera for spy photography. As has been repeated a million times but seems not to have penetrated thick heads, cameras are tools nothing more.

    Choose the right camera for you based on your needs. The most important consideration is to understand what your needs indeed are. Trying to buy a camera before understanding what the jobs are that it is supposed to do, is putting the cart before the horse, That suits the camera's industries needs, (not your) as people are then always chasing after the "best" camera, which usually means the most expensive one that they can afford.

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