Before reading my thoughts below, i just want to clarify that i am only thinking this way as a hobbyist, a passionate photographer and not as a professional photog who depends on photography for food on the table.
Having owned the M9, Nikon D4, Sony A55, Ricoh GXR, Nikon V1 and current remaining gear of Xvario, Olympus EP5 and Sigma SD15, u can imagine i went thru various workflow and system while doing shoot for models. With over 85 albums of different tones and styling and never ending quest for the best gears given allowable budget, i am gonna summarize my experience here.
I have been offered and taken jobs from anywhere between a humbling USD 75 for 2 hours to USD 30,000 for a project, small workshops and talks where i was given token of USD 100 range of budget. Yup, thats as far as hobbyist like me goes.
Today, if anyone were to ask me, which of the cameras that i was totally satisfied with and impressed with for my kind of shoot. I would say its the Olympus EP5.
Lets summarize some thoughts on the following trend/system :
M9-MM-M. Folks, hate to break this out to u but putting a non precise optical VF to your face which only allows central focusing-recompose is a very dated experience. You should not miss it, not for the price you are paying for it. Its fun in some ways, often rewarding you with images but its not really accurate technically and the thought of having recalibrate the camera…ouch.
Shooting B&W? This can be done in post processing. And while there are some scenes where B&W matters, in most cases, its should be used to represent historical images or vintage. B&W used to be a technological crutch, not something that we should be limited in today. 100 years from now, people who view your photos wants to know how things like buildings, streets, dress, fashion or cars are colored. B&W are the past, it evokes such feelings and hence many don’t question why it is appealing, but its practically history and your photos should reflect today so that others in the future can appreciate your work.
Having said that, i don’t deny that Leica in camera JPG produces some of the most amazing B&W toning. Its very hard to duplicate that high contrast B&W that you see in the Leica JPG using photoshop.
Leica lens. I no longer believe that Leica has superior lens quality that other manufacturers can’t have, precision technology has made most manufacturer closer to each other. What Leica do have is SMALL size for FF experience at the cost of focusing distance. Its very good if you don’t do macro at all. This IMHO should be be no.1 reason to pay for Leica.
The panasonic-Leica combo for m43 however, is an example of great value for performance, too bad they don’t release any such lens for Canon, nikon and Sony.
The rangefinder does not allow you to be more discreet in the street. This argument is as old as the typewriter. There are a gazillion of compacts and systems that could easily beat Leica on this. Leica’s own X system such as X2 and Xvario, easily beats any M system in this field. Using LCD is way more discreet than holding up anything to your eye. I know the M240 has live view, but you don’t pay USD 7 grand to use a live view on an exclusive range finder do you?
The no.2 reason why anyone should buy Leica is the name and image associated with it. Impression opens doors, you also get cocktail invitation to Leica launches as a legitimate customer 🙂 . Leica carries as a plus, a historical track record of prestigious photographers for streets. U just looked better with Leica than any other camera when attending any event 😉
No.3 reason? DNG. Will get to this later.
Sony A7, A7r, D600, D610, 6D . The list goes on when it comes to new FF coming to the playground. With big sensors, comes big spending hahaha. While its totally true that FF offers much better quality in images, that is true only in physics and specifications.
If you are shooting only landscapes, the APC Sigma SD1 would probably blow all the current FF away. But the SD1 is not so usable generally for other genres.
If you are shooting for billboard, yeah bigger sensor would help.
Now what if these are not your main genre. What if shooting people, portraits and general shooting is what you do…as a hobbyist. Bigger sensor also requires BIGGER lens, there is just no exception to this. Its as simple as the fact bigger glass (for bigger apertures) allows this unit of light to come in to fit in the size of a 35mm sensor FF.
With bigger systems, you pay dearly in mobility penalty.
Besides at the end of the day, if you are sharing your online which is like what most hobbyist does 99% of the time, you end up presenting just 2048 or less pixels across. That is less than 4 mp on most monitor and ipads.
APSC and m43 today offers even 16mp, that should be enuf for almost anything.
Low light has more to do with stability than sensor size.
Why is Fuji raking up so much news and sales nowadays?
Its because of mobility. Basically people want to believe that APSC in Fuji is the way to go simply because carrying such a nice form is better than a DSLR.
I agree. DSLR is surviving largely on past glory and huge lens support. As Fuji ramps up their lens offering, these advantages goes down, for the enthusiasts at least.
So why didn’t i buy Fuji instead of Leica Xvario. Because, of the RED Dot, Zoom lens and DNG. I bought the Xvario as a travel cam, i don’t want to be changing lens, want to be seen by whoever i talk to in visited countries as a more discerning photographer (lol i know). The DNG is 100% easier to process than any other format. I don’t want to crack my head over which raw converter is best for Fuji.
Finally we are here. The EP5 i have is one camera that i find i am totally happy and satisfied with “consistently”. I do go thru cycles of gear lust changing mood with Sigma, Xvario etc, but the EP5 always delivers.
The 5 axis stability by Olympus, is really an out of the world feature. I have more sharp images on my EP5 taken at low light with ISO 400 and a 1.8 lens, than i had with D4 with iso 500 and 1.4 lens.
The form is compact and lens offering for M43 is just amazing. Most folks wants to argue about DOF. For eg, a 25 mm Pana Leica f 1.4, they argue that on FF this is f2.8. Actually that just complicate things and causes confusion. A 25mm f1.4 on FF is a 25mm f1.4.
The DOF behaves like what you would have if you had a FF 25mm 1.4.
On m43, that translate to : 50mm f1.4 as far as focal length and aperture is concerned, but as for shallow dof, its what you would have if you had 25mm 1.4 on FF. Now thats much easier to understand now isn’t it?
But, if you just had a 1.8 lens, with the 5 axis stability, you can practically shoot sharper and better photos than most FF today given the same 1.8. Why? Just imagine, the 5 axis is like a… monopod.
If you want really shallow dof and light guzzler, you have the Voightlander 17.5, 25 and 42.5 f0.95. That my friend, is f0.95. Some say but its 1.8 on FF, that is only true for the “shallow dof part” but get this, with PEAK FOCUSING, you can use a practical f0.95 without central focusing.
Here are 2 images that my friends thought was done using my D4, but its actually EP5 with 75 mm 1.8.