Sound Advice: Micro Four-Thirds cameras belong on your shopping list
September 15, 2013 4:00 AM
Panasonic DMC-G6 interchangeable lens camera has excellent controls and is fun to use.
By Don Lindich
Question: I read your review of the $300 Samsung NX1000 and 1100 cameras. They sound very good, but I am wondering if you have suggestions for a more feature-rich mirrorless camera at a low price. I am an SLR user and thinking of a lighter camera. The APS-C sensor is fine, but I would like an adjustable screen as well as an electronic viewfinder. I would appreciate any insight you could offer.
Answer: Sony's new 20.1-megapixel Alpha 3000 uses Sony NEX lenses. It has a built-in electronic viewfinder and an APS-C size sensor, but no adjustable screen. It includes an 18-55 kit lens for $399. Downsides are limited continuous shooting, a plasticky body and a low-resolution viewfinder. Given my past experience with Sony NEX cameras, I expect the Alpha 3000 to have fantastic image and video quality.
My biggest beef with the NEX system is the lenses. Selection is limited and NEX lenses are almost as big and heavy as their full-sized SLR counterparts. The whole point of these systems is SLR performance and flexibility in a lightweight, compact package. I can fit an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and three lenses in a bag that is about one-third the size and half the weight of a comparable SLR camera outfit.
Don't let yourself get hung up on an APS-C sensor. Micro Four-Thirds belongs on your shopping list as well.
The latest Micro Four-Thirds sensors have closed the gap with APS-C. I've seen this in my own experience, and others are seeing the same thing.
Steve Huff is a passionate photographer who runs stevehuffphoto.com, one of my favorite photography websites. On his site, he says, "This format is here to stay and the reason is simple. This system has the best lenses, and makes the least compromises while delivering stellar image quality and capabilities. Micro 4/3 today is miles better than it was four years ago and it gets better every year. Today the files I get from an Olympus E-P5 and a lens like the 20 1.7 or 45 1.8 or 75 1.8 or 12 f/2 are as good as anyone needs. I know many pros shooting Micro 4/3, some of who dumped their large, full-frame DSLRs to do so."
I have been evaluating the Micro Four-Thirds Panasonic LUMIX G6 recently and am pleased with the improvements over the G1, which I once owned.
The G6 feels great in your hands, has excellent controls and is fun to use. Most importantly, Panasonic's JPG image quality has improved and is much better than I have experienced in the past, though Olympus is still class leader in this regard.
Panasonic does a better job with video. In fact, Panasonic has started marketing their system cameras as "hybrid" because they do stills and video equally well. It's a compelling combination. You can learn more at http://us.panasonic.com/lumixlounge, where you will find lots of pictures and videos.
The 16-megapixel Panasonic LUMIX G6 sells for $749. The predecessor LUMIX G5 model performs similarly and sells online for $399 with 14-42 kit lens, reduced from $699. This is the same price as the Sony Alpha 3000, but the G5 has solid build quality, a better viewfinder, a high resolution, adjustable touch screen, and it gets you into Micro Four-Thirds, the best mirrorless system on the market.