Why I Switched from SONY to Olympus cameras for travel photography
This is part 2 of my thoughts on the Olympus E-M1 Mark III, called EM1 throughout this post . I have been testing the EM1 for a couple of months now while looking into switching from SONY to Olympus for a travel photography camera. The reasons are outlined in my initial blog post, First impressions of Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. My intent was to finish my testing and evaluation of this camera for travel photography with a trip. Unfortunately, I had to postpone a trip to Hawaii due to Coronavirus and still cannot travel there. Many thought I was crazy to switch from full frame to micro four thirds, but I was determined to find a better set up that works for me.
Instead, I have done the next best thing. Since I live near the Adirondack Mountains, I go there often. This next part of my evaluation of switching from full frame to micro four thirds is based off of several day trips there for sightseeing and hiking. Taking only the Olympus camera, the goal is to see if this camera can become my one (and only) travel camera.
Olympus Travel Camera Requirements
My previous travel photography cameras were full frame SONY A7R Mark III and SONY A9. Before switching from SONY to Olympus. I needed to evaluate he following:
- Take high resolution pictures if the scene warranted
- Be quick, easy to use
- Easy to use filters
- Fast autofocus
- Articulating screen
- Outstanding image quality
Read more to see how the EM1 did in each of these areas. Please note that these were photos of opportunity and not necessarily the best pictures.
High Resolution pictures
I do sell my photography prints. There are times that I know that a picture will be purchased more often in a larger size. I actually did use medium format for a while, but hiking with such a large camera is not for me. 20 to 24 mp is actually a sweet spot that I enjoy.
Switching from full frame to micro four thirds is easier to consider with the high resolution mode. With high resolution, there is a lot more color and less noise. It is pretty amazing to see this kind of performance from such a compact camera.
In the two pictures below of Horseshoe Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, the first one is not high resolution and the second is with high resolution. Look at the dead trees on the right side. The second photo shows more definition in the branches. My thought on Olympus is the high resolution has finer details. The sky is more defined as are the mountains in the background. The colors are more vivid, especially with the greens. It is easier to see there are boats in the water of horseshoe lake in the high resolution photo.
Other than some basic imports that I do on all of my photos into Lightroom, none of these photos have any post processing. These are also photos of opportunity and not necessarily the best photos. I use them for illustration purposes.
Ease of Use
My thoughts on Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III camera is that it is easy to use and a pleasure to hike with. I had the 12-100 F4 lens on the camera which covered my needs. In the initial setup, I used the different custom settings so that I could easily switch between using neutral density filters and high resolution. Others have commented on the menu system, but SONY’s menu system was never intuitive to me so in switching from SONY to Olympus the menu system is a nonissue to me.
Live ND Filters
In travel photography, there are times that you will take a picture during the midday sun. While not ideal, it is often not avoidable due to schedules and travel restrictions.
This functionality is very important to me and I was curious to try this setting in a real situation.
The live ND filter works well. Less equipment to carry is an obvious benefit. But it is also quicker to set up over having to add the external filter.
I tested it on a small waterfall from the hike. This resulted in use on this particular hike, but I am looking forward to using this more. The results were pleasant and ease of use was outstanding.
The picture below shows the live neutral density filter at ND4 (2EV) which resulted in the blurring of the water.
The autofocus was quick, and easy to use. I always used the joystick with other cameras and continued with this one. The addition of 5 target and 9 target area adjustment is helpful.
My evaluation of the autofocus system is:
- Quick and easy to use
- Accurate on any subject
- Great in any environment
- Continuous focus good
- Easy to change autofocus settings
The articulating screen works well. I prefer to use the view finder to take pictures, so it is not the most used feature. But when I need it, I have no complaints.
I did comparison shots of SONY vs. Olympus in my first blog post. I was never thrilled with the color from SONY and did a lot of post processing to get the pictures where I liked them. I won’t repeat that here, but will state that the image quality is as good or better than the majority of photographs from my SONY cameras. You can see the picture comparisons for yourself in my previous post.
My thoughts on Olympus additional benefits
Additional benefits that I found that were not originally on my list of things to consider with using Olympus cameras for travel photography:
- The image stabilization: I have come to realize that I love the IBIS system of the Olympus system. While a tripod certainly has its benefits, I did not feel compelled to carry one when hiking. That was an added benefit that I did not expect. See the photo below of Comet NEOWISE which was taken handheld!
- Manual focus clutch on some lenses such as 12-100 F4. At first I disabled my camera so I didn’t use this option. However, I found it to be a great asset for my photography and now use it often.
- Build quality: the build quality is superb. I have used it in several conditions and it is far superior to the SONY system I was using.
- Pro capture mode: this was tested more on another camera so will be included in a subsequent blog.
What I would like to see
- GPS. As a travel photographer, this would be a huge benefit to me. But there are certainly work arounds for this and not a show stopper.
- Better EVF. A better viewfinder would jump this camera up in ratings in my opinion. If Olympus wants to market to professionals, this is a necessary upgrade.
Still need to test
- Focus Stacking and Bracketing: I suspect I will use this quite a bit. I have not done enough testing of this so did not use it this trip to the mountains. I will write another blog once I test —-I suspect it will be that important.
- Starry sky AF: Everytime I planned to test it, it rained or was cloudy. Still to come. This won’t be a frequently used feature for me, but I’m looking forward to testing it and trying it.
- Live Comp: I can see myself definitely using this. I haven’t had a chance to test it thoroughly yet.
Why I switched from SONY to Olympus cameras for travel photography
As I mentioned in my first blog, I was previously a full frame snob thinking the bigger sensor was the only way to go. I would not have considered a switch from SONY to Olympus in the past. However, I have learned a lot through the process of evaluating this camera and the camera speaks for itself.
- A camera is only good if it works for me.
- Cameras and sensors do not make you a better photographer.
- A camera is just the tool for the artist, much like a paintbrush is the tool for a painter.
- The tool has to work for the type of photography that you do.
- A photographer takes the picture using the tool to translate the photographer’s artist vision.
- The right gear to use is not what reviews say, but what works for you.
- Switching from full frame to micro four thirds is irrelevant. The most important consideration is does the camera work like you need it to.
Not only did I switch from full frame to micro four thirds, I was so impressed with this camera I am now fully invested in Olympus. I have invested in several lenses, mostly pro lenses. My normal setup includes two camera bodies since my other main photographic interest is wildlife photography, specifically bald eagle photography. I also purchased the OM-D E-M1X. There will be a separate blog post on my initial thoughts on Olympus OM-D E-M1X and why I chose it. Be sure to sign up below to get notifications of when this blog is published.
Current Micro Four Thirds Setup
My current lens setup with the two camera bodies is:
- 12-100 f/4 PRO
- 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO
- 300mm f/4 IS PRO
- 25mm f/1.2 PRO
- 12mm f/2.0
I look forward to sharing more information on switching from SONY to Olympus cameras in my next blog on my first impressions of the OM-D E-M1X. My Olympus cameras are used for both travel photography and wildlife photography.
My Thoughts on Olympus Sale to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP)
It would be remiss not to put in a comment on the recent news from Olympus about the sale of the imaging to JIP. I’m a new user to Olympus. But in all honesty, I like my cameras so much it has not deterred me from moving forward. I have a significant investment in Olympus bodies and lenses now. I purchased this equipment with the desire to take good pictures. This decision was based on a lot of research and testing and I’m very happy with my choice. My Olympus cameras feel right in my hands, work right with my fingers, lifestyle and photography style.
I just want to take pictures with equipment that works for me, so will not be making any changes. Keep in mind much of my equipment is newly purchased and still returnable. But why would I return something to works so well for me? I hope that JIP invests in R&D and moves the Olympus camera line forward. But while taking this wait and see approach, I will enjoy taking pictures with the best equipment I have used.
Switching from full frame to micro four thirds has had a positive impact for me. The Olympus cameras are packed with fantastic features and I can honestly say photography is FUN with these cameras.
Debbi Marquette Photography is located in Upstate New York at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Debbi is an award winning and published travel, landscape and bald eagle photographer specializing in artistic, authentic, and memorable landscape and wildlife photography. She travels frequently, lives near the mountains and constantly has a camera in her hand to capture photographs so others can see the beauty of our world.
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