From DSRL to mirrorless – my story

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8

This post is also available in: Română

Whenever I tell someone that I use almost exclusively my Olympus E-M1 MkII mirrorless camera, well, that certainly raises an eyebrow.

In a world where there is a fierce battle for more megapixels, and full-frame cameras are considered a must have, my decision to use a device with such a small sensor seems a bit strange.

So here’s my (short) story about how I came to change the format and make the transition from DSRL to a mirrorless system

Until 2012 I’ve used almost exclusively Canon DSRLs. I had the EOS-D30, then an EOS 40D, and in 2012 I had an EOS 60D with 18.1 effective megapixels — all of them being APS-C cameras.

Obviously, besides changing several camera bodies, over time my set of photo lenses has experienced a continuous evolution – from plastic fantastic to the more professional L-series lenses.

By the fall of 2012, I was thinking of going full frame. I was saving money to buy a Canon EOS 6D which was planned be released in the autumn of 2012.

And suddenly, all my plans have changed in an instant. The change was triggered by an impulse purchase of a small mirrorless camera – a Panasonic DMC-GX1 – which I bought just before a trip to Germany. I was hoping to shed some weight and spare my back from carrying the bulk of my DSRL.

And I’ve got much more than I was expecting.

The small Panasonic GX1 had half the size and weight of the DSRL I was carrying almost everywhere. Fitted with a Vario PZ 14-42mm compact lens it was just small enough to fit in my jacket pocket. It was so light that I nearly forgot I had it with me for all that time.

Its resolution was a bit smaller – only 16 megapixels, and it was able to record RAW + jpeg. But the big surprise came at the return from that trip – all the photos taken in good lighting conditions were almost on par with those made with the Canon DSRL. When printed on A4 paper, one had a difficult job to tell which picture was made with the GX1 and which picture was taken with the EOS 60D.

Since then my plans to buy a full-frame camera were postponed indefinitely.

Instead, I started to build a new set of lenses for my new mirrorless companion – all plastic, all cheap lenses. A nice travel zoom. Some excellent quality primes. My new mirrorless kit was now smaller and lighter than the old DSRL with a single lens attached – a blessing for my back.

Long gone are the times when I was hiking in the mountains with a big, heavy backpack. Nowadays, I’d rather choose locations that are easier to reach – by car or by public transportation.

But the GX1 had some drawbacks, too. The major disadvantage was the lack of a viewfinder. The GX1 was very hard to use in full sunlight; one could only guess what was on its display. There was the option of a separate, electronic viewfinder, but it came with an exorbitant price. The little on-camera flash was underpowered. Dedicated Olympus/Panasonic flashes were hard to find at that time.

In the meantime, I sold almost everything Canon, and I had plans to buy a better camera body. That better camera body was an Olympus OM-D E-M1, bundled with a fantastic 12-40 f/2.8 lens.

Over time, I’ve sold most of my Panasonic lenses, and I replaced them with Olympus Pro lenses. I’ve gained an extraordinary optical quality, but I’ve also added some weight in my backpack. Still, I carry less than half the weight of a DSRL system.

I’ve then bought the E-M1 Mark II, which added a lot of improvements over its predecessor, and came with a 20 megapixels sensor. The older E-M1 is now used as a backup camera, or by my wife when we work on separate projects.

And finally, last year I’ve sold my Elinchrom studio flashes and went for a Godox system – but this will be the subject of another blog post.

Several years after going mirrorless, I have to say I’m happy with this choice.

The Olympus system I currently own covers very well my needs. And, as a contributor to major microstock sites, I am very happy with my Olympus system. I have an acceptance rate of over 99%.  The few rejections are not for technical reasons. The 20 Mpix sensor is also more than enough – only a few of my downloads are for a full resolution image. The majority of my sales comes from web-sized pictures, so I don’t feel any limitations here.

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