Going Small – Part 2

March 28th, 2012

I am now going to reveal my obsessive side.

At this point I had three candidate cameras: Sony NEX 7, Fuji X-Pro1, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (don’t know why they couldn’t stop with just OM-D, but what do I know). All were designed for reasonably sophisticated shooters and claimed to rival the big boys in image quality (IQ). Problem was none of them were available to just go and look at. So I made a list of specs, decided which were most important to me and rated each of them, giving a 3 to the best with declining scores (down to 0) for each of the others. For example, sensor type: both the Sony and the Fuji use a larger APS-C sensor while the Olympus uses a micro four-thirds. In addition, the Fuji sensor is a new take on sensors and is expected to produce fabulous results. So in this category I gave Fuji a 3, Sony a 2 and Olympus a 1.

The categories I compared were: sensor type, resolution, flip-out screen, battery life, light sensitivity (ISO), speed, size, weight, flash, weather sealing, autofocus, quality and availability of lenses, image stabilization, and metering. For my purposes I was less interested in video and did not include video specs in my analysis.

Some of these categories produced clear winners. Sony is the smallest and lightest, followed by Oly and then Fuji (with total difference between heaviest and lightest 3.6 ounces). Fuji won on type of sensor but Sony has 24mp compared to 16mp for each of the others. The Olympus is the only one with weather sealing.

But there was still the matter of image quality and no real life reviews for two of the three cameras. After thinking about it I realized that I need several things to get a quality image in addition to a good sensor. I like to shoot in low light and want to be able to capture images of people in motion: street shooting, environmental portraits, and fast moving kids. So for what I wanted to be able to do I used the following to approximate IQ: availability of quality lenses, fast and accurate autofocus, image stabilization, and the ability to shoot at high ISOs. In each of those categories the 3 went to Olympus.

The final score was Olympus 26, Sony 22, and Fuji 16. My head followed my heart and I pre-ordered the Olympus. I hope to receive it in mid-April.

Now I freely admit that this system is idiosyncratic. Bob looked at the same data and ordered the Sony – with a wonderful Zeiss lens. His camera arrived last week and I have a bad case of camera envy.

Since I placed my order reviews of both the Fuji and the Olympus have started to appear. All three cameras seem to be living up to the hype but I’ll wait to do the third part of this set of posts until after mine arrives and I have a chance to try it out.

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