Buying Advice for a Micro 4/3 Camera
December 13, 2010 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Looking for advice on purchasing a Micro 4/3 camera for the wife. As always, special snowflake details apply.

So, I'm finally getting around to buying the wife a more serious camera, and taking some advice from this previous question, I'm going to get her a Micro 4/3 camera. The short version for the tl:dr crowd is that my wife has limited use of her right hand. With an autofocus lens, a 4/3 camera should be small enough for her to comfortably hold and operate with one hand.

I've narrowed it down to the Panasonic Lumix GF-1 or the Olympus E-P2

The lumix seems to have a slight edge in reviews, although the olympus also seems to be a really solid camera. Really, the only big difference I see is that the olympus comes with a $100 shoe flash, free, while the Lumix has a relatively rinky-dink built in flash.

Is there a decent sub-$100 flash that'll fit the lumix? will she use a bolt-on flash so often on a camera that small for it to be worthwhile?

If anyone has one of these two cameras (or something similar, like a E-P1), can you testify to how well you like it?
posted by Oktober to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a GF-1 with the 20mm f1.7. Having the fast lens means I almost never need to use the flash, but when I do use it for fill-light against strong light I find it does what I need it to do. I don't think any sub-$100 flash will outperform the onboard flash on the GF-1. But the hotshoe is there, and I have put my Canon 430EX on their once or twice just for fun. They're both good cameras though. Can't go wrong with either choice. Although if the Sony NEX had come out when I got my GF1, I definitely would have given them a look.
posted by reformedjerk at 3:15 PM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: Would you recommend the 20mm lens over the 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens? It seems what you'd give up in size, you'd gain in flexibility.
posted by Oktober at 3:18 PM on December 13, 2010

I have recently used an EP-1 for some book scanning work. I was surprised at how heavy it is -- if the EP-2 is anything like it, the weight of the body may be a problem.

I don't think the flash is the issue that you might think it is.

visit 1001noisycameras for the latest deals- there have been many good ones lately.
posted by fake at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2010

I have two NEX-5 cameras, and love them, BTW, but I don't think they're the best for this situation because most of the controls are on the right side of the camera.

The 14-45 is a decent lens. My guess is that you can get it very cheap on eBay, and get the body with the 20mm, which will do better in low light.
posted by fake at 3:20 PM on December 13, 2010

I just finished obsessing over this very problem, and ended up buying the E-P2. But, that was for my very specific set of needs - in particular, I needed an external microphone and stereo sound for video, so the Panasonic was unfortunately out.

If that's not important to you, i'd recommend the Panasonic. I've played with both and the Pany is zippier on focus, although you can alleviate a lot of that by putting that gorgeous lumix 20mm lens on the PEN (which is what i'm doing). I also thought the Panasonic felt that little bit more fun to use, although the PEN also feels quite delightful to play with. I loved the style and build quality of the PEN, but the Panasonic was very solid as well (and nicer than the E-PL1 by a longshot)

Either way, the 20mm lens is a beauty, and i'd recommend it for either body. I don't think the flash is going to be a huge issue as the 20mm lens is good in low light.

In case you haven't seen it, the PEN is on Amazon for $518 at the moment.
posted by ukdanae at 3:28 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: My wife loves our new GF1 w/ 20mm lens. Never used the flash. A few times it's displayed a message on the screen to activate the flash, but we've ignored it and the pictures have been fine.

How limited is your wife's use of her right hand? The buttons and controls are all on the right on the GF1, and the case is very rectangular - there's not much to grip on the right hand side compared to cameras that have a pistol grip-type bulge on the front.

I assume you've read this comparison of the two cameras.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:34 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: I have the GF-1 – I'm not a professional photographer by any means, but I'm an enthusiastic amateur. (I played around with the EP1 in a shop a bit before I bought the GF1, but don't have any other experience with the Olympus m4/3 cameras).

Personally, I think it's a great camera. With the 20mm pancake lens, I imagine it's pretty easy to use with one hand, especially if you use the "intelligent auto" setting, which generally seems to give pretty good pictures. Many of the settings can be accessed without going too deeply into the menus, which again should make it pretty easy for one-handed shooting.

The kit zoom lens (14-40mm, from memory) is a manual zoom, so that might be a bit more challenging to operate single-handedly. Personally, however, I usually find myself just taking the 20mm.

The only issue I have with it is that it isn't always easy to tell where the autofocus is autofocusing on using the LCD. I've had a few photos that were inexplicably out of focus because the autofocus had picked something weird to focus on. Setting it on centre-focus gives more reliable results, IME, but it's not available with the full auto setting. There is also a manual focus, but I've found that a bit hit and miss. The LCD is great for most things (and is quite visible even in the bright Australian sun), but for fine focusing it's not fantastic.

Overall, however, I'd recommend it.
posted by damonism at 3:35 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: I love the GF-1 with the 20mm f/1.7 lens.

Works great one-handed. Battery lasts forever. I would buy it again. My only gripe is the noisy-ish (above iso 200) sensor.
posted by andreinla at 5:21 PM on December 13, 2010

I have an EP-1 that I bought on advice from a pro photographer friend of mine. I lovelovelove it. After looking at my pics and playing with it a bit, he decided he had to get one too. (I have the 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, find it very flexible; he keeps the Lumix 20mm lens on his and that's all kinds of awesome, too...hard to lose whatever you choose). It is heavy, so I'd see if you can find a camera shop that stocks both and try them both out for handfeel.

Also recommend checking out Flickr for both cameras and lenses and see which pics you like best. Really, I don't think you can go wrong with either--they're both great cameras.

On a totally shallow note, I think the EP-1 is a daaaaaaaaaamn sexy looking camera.
posted by smirkette at 5:32 PM on December 13, 2010

I got the E-PL1 in October; also "lovelovelove it." Reviews sold me on ease of use and I totally agree with those reviews -- I am somewhat camera-stupid, haven't had time to read the manual at all, and am finding it a joy to use. Here is a picture that was an autofocus snapshot, which left me very excited: point + shoot = terrific detail!? Nice. The little pop-up flash is great, simple and effective.
posted by kmennie at 6:18 PM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I'm going with the GF-1 with the 20mm lens for now. As she gets more comfortable with the camera, we'll get more lenses.
posted by Oktober at 1:29 AM on December 14, 2010

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