Olympus 75mm f1.8 (courtesy of dpreview)
I’m done building out my collection of Canon lenses, maybe forever. At the peak, I had about 10 lenses, I recently sold 2 of them. I have the wonderful Canon EF 70-200 f4 L IS, a fantastic lens, one of my favorites. I have a nice collection of Canon primes but I really don’t use these too much, anymore. They’ve been replaced by my Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 and Lumix 14mm f2.5. My Olympus 45mm f1.8 can go toe to toe with my Canon 85mm f1.8 optically, but the Olympus wins hands down for size and comfort. The Lumix 20mm beats the Canon 35mm f2 and Canon 50mm f1.4 optically, no question. Oh and on the Olympus bodies, all of these prime lenses have image stabilization, something that I could only dream about in the Canon world. The newer prime lenses for Canon all seem to be targeted towards the L crowd and priced accordingly while the lower priced offerings tend to be cheap kit zooms. Contrast this with the micro 4/3 world where high quality prime lenses are still relatively affordable.
I look at the micro 4/3 world and all I see are fantastic lenses that I want to own. Panasonic and Olympus, probably by design, nicely compliment each other in building out the m4/3 lens portfolio. Even Sigma has joined the party. I own 3 prime lenses; which prime do I buy next? Do I go wider with the Olympus 12mm f2.0 or go for the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4? Also in a month or so Olympus is releasing their 75mm f1.8. On the zoom front, Panasonic is filling out the line with the already announced 12-35mm f2.8 followed by the rumored 35-100mm. While some of these lenses are pricey, they are in line or priced lower than their Canon and Nikon counter parts. And unlike Canon and Nikon’s 10 – 20 year old aging primes designs, we have modern glass on the m4/3 front.
Some may argue that the image quality on the full frame 35mm and APS-C sensors will be better than the micro 4/3. That maybe true at the sensor level but sensor quality is a separate issue from lens quality. I’m not a lens designer so I can’t confirm this but I’ve heard that is easier to create higher quality, smaller lenses. So while you may get less noise and more range from your full frame sensor, you won’t necessarily get better edge to edge lens sharpness. In addition, I’ve read that the larger the space between the sensor (or film) and the back plane of the lens, the more optical compromises need to be made, thus reducing image quality. The DSLRs have a lot of space between the sensor and the lens because of that flapping mirror. The mirrorless cameras, like the Leica range finders, have the no moving mirror to worry about. These non-SLR cameras have a very short distance between the sensor and lens, thus increasing image quality, I’m told. You do get a shallower depth of field with the full frame cameras, however this is not desirable in all types of photography. In street shooting and landscapes, for example, having a deeper depth of field is often sort after. In fact, DSLRs with larger sensors can be at a distinct disadvantage in lower light conditions if you need more depth of field and don’t have a tripod handy.
So yes, I am enamored with the new mirrorless camera world. Absolutely. I get arguably higher quality lenses at lower prices. I get a great lens selection that is rapidly growing. And I’m on the leading edge of a trend that is destined to continue. The mechanical, flapping mirror, DSLR is a dinosaur. Some people just don’t realize that the comet has already struck the earth and the weather is beginning to change. The small and nimble are the ones who are going to survive.