The Best Mirrorless Camera System: Olympus Micro 4/3

Olympus Graphic

Kyoto, Japan shot with the Olympus E-P3 / 5 image HDR / Panasonic 14mm f2.5 with wide-angle adapter

Why I like Olympus

I own many cameras but the Olympus Pens are my favorite — I now use them 90% of the time. There are many mirrorless camera models on the market, so why Olympus?

Several reasons. First, I love the Olympus color. They have rich, vibrant colors and skin tones look great. Next, the Olympus Pens have in-body image stabilization. I can use any lens, such as large aperture primes, and still get image stabilization. The Olympus is part of the micro 4/3 standard. They have the largest selection of lens — many with fantastic quality. The micro 4/3 sensor strikes the perfect balance between image quality and camera size. Finally, there are many inexpensive models and a lot of factory refurbished units which offer high image quality for a comparably low price.

These cameras aren’t the old-fashioned DSLRs with their bulky bodies and flapping mirrors. New technologies have made mirrorless cameras small but they still take DSLR quality photos. The Olympus micro 4/3 cameras work so well that I use them everyday. I shoot my kids with them but also take them around the world with me on my travels. They are so light and small that they don’t wear me down even if I walk all day. No need to use large, bulky backpacks anymore. And oh yeah, no more back aches.

The Olympus Pens are what I recommend for anybody interested in travel and street photography. Especially for photographers that appreciate and know how to use prime lenses.

These are the cameras I recommend right now. It is a straight forward guide to the mirrorless cameras you should consider.

The E-PL1

I bought my first Olympus, the E-PL1, in the summer of 2011. I got it almost on a whim. I was never completely satisfied with the Sony NEX-5’s color, especially for skin tones. I decided to try the Olympus since I heard good things about their color. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I liked it so much that I bought another one to use as a matched pair. The E-PL1 doesn’t focus fast so use it for slow-moving or stationary subjects. However, it makes great photographs and it is available at a fantastic price.

The Olympus E-PL1 Review
My New Two Camera Olympus Pen Setup
The Two Olympus Pens in action
Olympus E-PL1: The best price to quality ratio
Photos shot with the Olympus E-PL1

I took the two E-PL1s and the Sony NEX-5 on my around the world India and Singapore trip in February 2012. I mounted the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 and the Olympus 45mm f1.8 on the two Olympus bodies. I used a wide-angle on the Sony. All 3 cameras together weighed less than my Canon 7D DLSR with the wide-angle lens. This 3 camera combination allowed me to shoot all kinds of subjects quickly without having to swap lenses.

The E-P3

After the India trip, I saw a deal on the then top-end (in 2011) E-P3 and I couldn’t resist — I end up buying up my 3rd Olympus Pen. Here are my Olympus E-P3, First Impressions. This much faster camera is a real pleasure to use especially compared to the slower E-PL1. The high ISO performance is a bit better with a nicer user interface.

Photographs taken with the Olympus E-P3

In the July of 2012, I took all 3 Olympus cameras to Japan and left the Sony NEX-5 at home. I used the Panasonic 14mm and the Panasonic wide-angle adapter for my architecture photos. The photo at the top was taken with 5 bracketed images, a new feature on the E-P3. It works well for HDRs. With exposure bracketing and wide-angle lens on the E-P3, I no longer need to bring my Canon 7D to do HDRs. A lighter camera means I can use a lighter tripod. Not bringing my DSLR meant that I really reduced the weight of my equipment — especially nice when traveling abroad.

The E-PM2

Olympus did a major upgrade with the premium OM-D E-M5 in 2012. Among its many features is a fantastic 16MP Sony sensor. It finally put micro 4/3 on par, image quality wise, with the larger APS-C sensors. It has much improved high ISO performance and better dynamic range over the previous 12MP sensor. I wrote a series of posts that compared the OM-D with the new Olympus Pens. I wanted that new 16MP sensor but which camera should I buy?

Olympus OM-D the good and not so good
In limbo between the Olympus OM-D and E-PL5
Olympus E-PL5 vs. Olympus E-PM2, a surprise

Ultimately, I decided to buy the E-PM2, which was the least expensive way to get the new sensor. The body is definitely entry-level but it has the same image quality as the more expensive models The Olympus E-PM2 arrives early, looks promising.

Having a large selection of prime (non-zooming) lenses works well for the way I shoot — this is the strength of micro 4/3. With these big aperture prime lens, I can shoot in dark urban environments without a tripod. I can capture street photographs as well as architecture, at lower ISOs, which increases image quality. With the E-PM2, a very usable ISO 1600 coupled with my prime f1.4 – f2.5 lenses means I could shoot under most conditions.

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