Since the day after the first Micro Four Thirds cameras were announced I’ve toyed with the idea of purchasing one. I don’t mean that I’m giving up on my DSLR, that’s not going to happen. However I’m often in situations where I wish that I had my camera with me but carrying such a large rig is out of the question.
Now I’ve tried to find solutions that don’t cost as much money. I’ve tried carrying my big camera in a backpack and in a messenger bag. Either bag is a good option but they are still large and heavy pieces of luggage. I’ve tried using high-end compacts like the S90 or the G11 but they just don’t give me the operational flexibility or satisfaction I’m looking for. Room filling flash from a compact – fuhgeddaboutit.
By the way, there really isn’t much to complain about in the image quality of today’s compact cameras. I’ve made 13X19 prints from the G11 that are jaw dropping. For me the compacts just don’t handle as well for the way that I like to shoot.
When I first saw the new Samsung NX10 at the photo convention last week I was underwhelmed. For all of the hype my first impression was that I had found possibly the homeliest camera of the year. Yes, it uses an APS-C sensor but they stuck it in a camera that looks just like a pared down regular ol’ DSLR. After playing with all of the latest contenders at PMA my field of choice narrowed to either the Olympus or the Panasonic lines.
The Olympus E-PL1 is a gem and the E-P2 is a very good upgrade to the original PEN. The Panasonic G1 is still going strong and even though it too looks like a miniaturized DSLR, unlike the Samsung NX10 the G1 has style. The Panasonic GF1 was the winner for me. It is incredibly small yet more responsive than a compact camera could ever be. The GF1 handles well and I found the operation to be what I’d expect for a compromise camera – better than a compact, not quite as good as a DSLR.
And that may well be the key. The understanding that (for the moment) Micro Four Thirds cameras probably are going to appeal more to owners of full-sized DSLR’s than to folks looking to graduate from compacts. They are travel cameras to take along when a regular DSLR would simply be in the way. They are party and event cameras for those times when getting pictures would be nice but the thought of lugging five or ten pounds of gear means you’re more likely to leave home without a camera.
The Micro Four Thirds cameras are all very capable and well thought out (remember, the NX10 is APS-C, not a Micro Four Thirds camera). I think I can justify owning a second, smaller camera. Especially if it means that I miss fewer photo opportunities. So next week I’ll be prying open my wallet and getting in line for a Panasonic GF1.