Can a mirrorless camera compete against my go to full frame?
Over a year ago I was very kindly given an Olympus OM-D E-M1 to trial after a conversation about how I was struggling to get my full frame camera and accompanying equipement into my bikepacking and wild camping kit.
A few photographers I know have been swapping over to the new mirrorless bodies that have been sweeping the market in recent years. Some use as a second camera for days they don’t want to carry their full kit, some as a handy back up camera and I know a few that have completely dropped their full frame bodies and kit and completely crossed over.
After a year what are my thoughts I hear you ask? Well… not a lot. That comment is nothing to really do with the camera but in all honesty because I didn’t give it a fair test. With a busy year I didn’t have time to try and get to grips with it and the few times I did I struggled with the results I obtained as I kept comparing them to my full frame system. Every now and then I would end up with a result I was happy with but was finding it hard to leave my main camera at home. Another big reason was I knew how far I could push the limits of my full frame, I knew I could under or over expose much further than the Olympus and pull it back in post processing.
Let me start here with saying that the mk1 is a great camera and for many it would be more than they may ever need. I came away with some impressive results and had I given it more of a chance I may have warmed to it even more. Although what I was looking for was a like for like alternative to my full frame body and lens set up and i felt it just didn’t play at the same level. I also appreciate that what I am asking is slightly unfair and a very tall ask when you put the sensors and stats side by side. This is a quest for me to find an alternative to carrying a heavy load and hopefully slimming down my out and about set up. I would also like to thank Olympus for offering me the chance to test out what they have.
Okay, so now on to the mkii. Like the mk1 the build quality really stands out to me, switches, dials etc all feel like they are made to last and have that touch of quality. Ergonomically it feels great, I was worried that a smaller camera may feel a little fiddly after years of using a large body but it doesn’t. I shoot in manual all the time (yes even when shooting sports) so I am continually adjusting the settings whilst looking through the view finder. This has become second nature on the OM-D and I already feel at home with it. The main area which I struggled with on the mk1 was processing the RAW files, on the mkii I was able to push the camera more inline with what I can on my full frame and pull back the results in processing.
The mkii also has a few subtle changes over its predecessor, a slightly deepened grip which makes it a more comfortable and user friendly for larger hands. Twin SD card slots which for many offers a much needed reassurance. It now offers the most generous battery life for any mirrorless camera and its already league beating internal stabilisation has been improved further. Its worth noting that the stabilisation is built in to the camera so it doesn’t matter what lens you use with the body. Its also had a boost in resolution and its new composite mode can apparently increase power to a whopping 50 megapixels under the correct conditions. What really stood out to me and blew my mind a little was that it can now fire off an outstanding 60fps.
If you tend to shoot video on your camera then this is now packed with features that will help you produce some impressive footage. With an offering of 4K and cinema 4k video along with the built in stabilisation hand held footage is surprisingly good. The fully rotational screen helps compose and track your subject nicely whist moving with the camera hand held. I have only shot a small amount of video on this and by no means pretend to be a budding Spielberg but from what I can see it would be more than enough for my needs.
Three other things that really make this camera appeal to me is the addition of a really neat removable flash that is tiny but packs enough punch to help freeze motion or give a little additional light to a subject. Unlike the mk1 flash this is rotational, giving you control over the flash direction.
The second and rather important feature for someone like my self is that the body is weather proof. As I often will be shooting in the rain, mud and wind along with stuffing it into wet bags, tents etc, this will help massively.
The third is one of the timer options, you have the standard 12s timer and then there is the custom timer option where you can adjust the timer from 1 to 30s, number of frames taken from 1 to 10, interval length between frames from 0.5s to 3s and finally AF on each frame or not.
After two weeks in the Outer Hebrides using the mkii I noticed I was starting to leave my full frame behind and grab the Olympus as my images were of a quality I was more than happy with, in fact I was very happy with them. I have realised that it will always be extremely hard to compete with a top end full frame camera, but most of my outdoor adventure images will never reach print sizes more than A3 and on computer screens the Olympus is punching at heavy weight levels. With the overall kit size being half of what my full frame is and the weight greatly reduced I may have found the perfect answer to my original question.