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Old 3rd February 2019
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pdk42 pdk42 is offline
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My latest foray into FF mirrorless - and why I'm sticking with m43

This is a copy of a piece I posted over mu43 but I'm not sure how many of you go there so I thought I post it here too in case my ramblings are of interest.

To cut a long story short, I've been looking at FF again. It started with me playing with a Z6 on a recent pilgrimage to B&H. Wow I thought - this is a NICE camera and the lenses look great and fairly compact. Then, a couple of weeks later I was sucked into the dementor-like vortex of gloom and despondency that was triggered by the E-M1x launch (it's amazing really that the launch of a range-topping camera could have caused so much angst!!).

I ran a Canon 5dii plus a bunch of L lenses before I got into m43 and I swapped because (a) I was fed up of the size and weight, (b) m43 was just better from a shooting perspective and I started enjoying my photography more, and (c) the IQ was pretty close for most of what I did.

But that was in 2013 and FF has moved a long way since then, especially mirrorless; and m43? - well not so much! So, I thought - well, now might be the time to return to FF. So I invested quite a bit of time looking at the current state of the Sony A7 system and the new Nikon Z system. You know the sort of thing - reading reviews and opinion pieces until 2 in the morning , playing with sample raws, building shopping baskets on popular retailer web-sites, making lists of how much my m43 gear might be worth. I'm sure you've all done it (haven't you? ).

I also paid a visit to a local photo store (amazingly, these things still exist in the UK!) and spent an enjoyable couple of hours with an A7iii and a Z6 (thanks to Tom at London Camera Exchange in Leamington - fantastic store and people!). I went in planning to buy a Z6, but I came out with my wallet still firmly closed. Here's why...
  • There are things that my EM1.2 does that neither the Z6 nor the A7iii do that are important to me. I'm talking about things like Livetime, Livecomp, over/under indicators on live view, handholdability of several seconds when using sync IS (e.g. with the 12-100), and 60 fps electronic shutter with frame count limiter (for HDR or other image stacking reasons).
  • Lenses - to get even near a lens range that matches my m43 setup I'd be into building a kit of comparatively large, heavy and expensive lenses. On the Z that would mean a number of adapted F-mount lenses (which wouldn't be small) and on the A7iii it would be worse - stuck either with mediocre, cheaper lenses or crazy big and expensive G Master versions.
  • Sensor performance on m43 is obviously inferior, but at low ISO and with using a few stacking tricks when need be, I can get it very, very close. I seldom print bigger than A3+ at which the output is stunning from m43. Even when I have printed larger I've still been very happy with the results if I carefully prepare the file. For on-line posting to Flickr etc, even m43 is overkill.

So, that's my decision. It's been an interesting exercise to look at the Z6 and FF mirrorless world again and I really thought that I'd jump.

Of course I'm mainly a landscape guy. It might be a different conclusion if I were into portraiture, sports or such. It might even be different if I were starting from scratch, but right now m43 is capable of meeting my needs/wants. And just to re-confirm that thought, I took a few shots today on a walk and looking at them now on the computer I'm really bowled over by the image quality - here's a simple example with the EM1.2 and the 12-100:

Tom o'The Wood by Paul Kaye, on Flickr

My core lens kit is the PL 8-18 and the Oly 12-100 and they both deliver corner-to-corner pin-sharp images with fantastic punch, colour and micro-contrast - even wide open. So long as I keep the ISO down to 800 or lower (which for landscape is pretty easy) then the output is stunning and perfectly capable of being printed big.

And for landscapes, I love the Livetime feature. I use it very often shooting daytime with ND filters. Not only is it useful for judging the right exposure time, but you can do real-time "burning in" of parts of the image using a mask in front of the lens during exposure. For example, here's a shot I took on New Year's Eve with the EM1.2 + 12-100. It's a 32s exposure with LiveTime and I used a make-shift mask on the sky (a black fabric filter case in fact) to "burn in" the canal without blowing the sky. That's something I couldn't do either the Z6 or the A7iii and it's a fantastic way of managing DR in typical landscape scenarios. Aside from the Livetime trickery, the image quality in this shot is superb too. I printed it yesterday at A3+ and hung it on the wall.

Winter Light in Bruges by Paul Kaye, on Flickr
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