Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Battle Continues...Choosing Olympus Vs. Panasonic Micro 4/3's Cameras

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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As to the Panasonic GF1 verses the Olympus E-PL1...the lens choices may drive the decision for Panasonic users by the need for lenses to have image stabilization built-in to the lens. This is opposed to choosing Olympus for it's in-body stabilization.

This blog post is not so much a review of the two cameras; but more of my own take after taking the plunge with the Olympus E-P1 a year ago. Some of you that have followed my blog posts so far know that I am in the Olympus m4/3's camp. Yet I see that the Panasonic m4/3's cameras fitting the needs of photographers out there as well. Any comments I make are based on my own use of the Olympus PEN Series and spending way too much time in reading various web forums and blogs out there - as well as talking with customers that have come to me as sort of the m4/3's guru at Penn Camera Tyson.

- The GF1 has a metal body verses the E-PL1's polycarbonate body. I don't care either way. I prefer lighter weight bodies over all.

- HD video seems to be the buzz word between the competing systems. Both can shoot 720P HD. Olympus uses MPEG for video which limits capture time to about 7 minutes per a clip; while the AVCHDlite allows you to record as long have memory on your SDHC card. The buzz is that MPEG is easier to edit with many more programs out there as of right now.

- Built-in flash performance based off the specs posted on DPReview... Olympus was listed as 32 feet verses 19 feet for the GF1. But that is half of the story as far I can tell. One reason I bought the E-PL1 was the ability to use the pop-up flash as a remote trigger for the Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R flashes - something I had enjoyed with the Nikon CLS system on some of their DSLR's. (And have had the chance to talk about a few times of the past couple of years in the Penn Camera free seminars held every couple of weeks. Just click on the Upcoming Classes link at to find out about these short seminars that are FREE!).

- Top shutter speed: for most shooters out there it does not make a difference between the E-PL1's 1/2000 shutter speed and the GF1's 1/4000 shutter speed. I guess I am power shooter that loves the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens and loves to play with the depth of field that lens can give - if I can shoot at f/1.7 verses f/2.8.

- The NMOS sensor on the Olympus verses the CMOS sensor on the Panasonic. This really ends up as a Red State vs. Blue State argument. All I can say there on the topic is that like many reviews and blogs out there - I like what the PEN Series cameras give me from the JPEG. I did have the chance today to talk with a customer of mine that bought and E-P1 early on, and just got a G-2 from Panasonic.... Asked him what he thought of the IQ (image quality) between the two cameras... He admitted that he has to work at getting the same IQ from the G-2 over the EP-1... but for now the G-2 fitted his needs better...

- ISO tops out at 3200 on the Panasonic verses the Olympus at 6400...While some may feel that the noise at 6400 is excessive - there are times that an extra stop is worth the costs. I like the film-like quality of the noise/grain that 3200 has with the m4/3's format. I came about in photography that ISO was grainy as all heck. I have some ISO 800 and 1600 images done as 13x19 prints that hold up well here from the likes of the Panasonic LX-2 point and shoot camera....

So there you have it... my take on Olympus verses Panasonic and the m4/3's system as it stands as of right now...