[OM] Test Driving

Subject: [OM] Test Driving
From: Ken Norton <ken@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2018 17:27:19 -0800

A few days ago, I took SWMBO clothes shopping, but fortunately for me,
she encouraged me to go hang out at the local purveyor of electronic
goodies while she found new jeans.

I took the time to check out a couple Sony full-frame bodies and
lenses, Fujifilm X-T2 and the Panasonic G9. Oh, and for sanity sake,
the Canon 5DmkWhatever and the 6Dmk2.

And then went on to shoot over 452 pictures in the E-3 that afternoon
and the next day.

With that comparative, here are my current impressions on
handling/feel/userinterface aspects:

1. SONY has the best viewfinders of everything I looked at. I love the
way the data is presented with no overlap of the image area. Concise,
clear, LARGE and pretty friendly. Unfortunately, I detect just enough
image lag that I feel like I need to keep both eyes open. Image
quality is dead-on and I'm very much liking these cameras. The
controls feel good, very good. The size/heft is excellent with just a
hint of CG-imbalance.  Yet, as is typical with mirrorless cameras, the
shutter just feels just a touch off. Yet, nothing at all that would
prevent me from buying it. Lenses breath through the eye-piece.
Creepy. Overall, four out of five lenscaps.

2. X-T2. I want to love this camera. Everything from the cable-release
to the traditional controls say that this is the camera to love in
every regard. Unfortunately, the controls feel just a touch cramped to
me and the viewfinder image is substantially smaller than that of the
SONY's. The viewfinder information is better than the SONY in some
ways, but the apparent size reduction was less than desirable. I like
the camera, but I feel like something is missing and I can't figure
out what. Overall, three out of five lenscaps. If it wasn't for the
cable-release and traditional controls, I wouldn't give this camera
another thought. If I'm going to have a camera pressed up against my
face for long periods of time, I'd rather do it with the SONY than the

3. Panasonic G9. This camera is somewhere between the other two. The
image-stabilization is unworldly. Like the X-T2, the controls feel
cramped to me. I'm not sure why, but the viewfinder is good but
doesn't impress. The camera has the feeling of so overly tweaked that
it has lost its soul. However, using the rear-display and operating
the camera away from the eye, I think this is the best of the bunch.
Like the X-T2, I give it three out of five lenscaps but it's as sexy
as a Ford Taurus. I certainly would not pick it over the Olympus. The
viewfinder is such that I'd rather use the rear-display.

4. 5Dmk4. Heavy, old, and familiar. Wonderful REAL viewfinder. Very
responsive. Typical complaint of ergonomics. Yada, yada. Without
live-view, I'm not interested. VERY outdated in nearly every way. The
weight is certainly a show-stopper for me now. I can't see any
significant advantage of this camera over the SONY offerings. One out
of five lenscaps. Please Canon, put a fork in it.

5. 6Dmk2. I was certainly curious to see how it compared to my 6Dmk1.
More/better. It's evolutionary, certainly not revolutionary. Pretty
much the original with an improvement in features and capabilities.
Not quite as dumbed down. What's odd is that just like the original, I
feel like it's a half-step behind. It's better if you don't use
"silent" mode, but it still feels like you're dragging a tired toddler
around. As EVFs are now the norm, I'm certainly not going to spend the
same money for 6Dmk2 as a SONY. Compared to the 5Dmk4, the 6Dmk2 is
definitely a better camera for all but the rarest of things.  Two out
of five lenscaps. Nice but I'm not interested.

7. The comparative -- Olympus E-3. Snappy fast. Well balanced, but
with a twist to the left. Controls are roomy. The viewfinder is still
pretty decent. No EVF, of course. Rear display is held together with
tape, but that's another story. :)  Obviously, the sensor and other
performance issues are lacking, but that's not what I'm comparing. I
dislike the modal model that Olympus did with the E-3. It's like they
copied the worse aspects from Canon and tweaked them to be even worse.
But what is interesting is how well the camera ergonomics and
operational aspects are better than the brand new cameras. You don't
have to go dumpster-diving to find basic settings like you do with
Canon. While the camera is heavy, it feels better than the Canons.
Shutter release is definitely better. Not as good as the E-1, but
better than most. The biggest gripe I have with most digital cameras
is that you have to constantly be aware of what they're doing behind
your back with the settings. Did the mode change? Did the aperture
change? Did the ISO revert to something else when the camera went to
sleep? These are things that Olympus has done better than most in
keeping the camera from going down dark alleys. My "Doug Score", which
is based on how the camera compares to the cameras of today, even
though it might be 10 years old, reduces this camera to a two lens
caps out of five because of the lack of an EVF and the grotty modal
model it has. But from a "confidence" perspective, the E-3 remains a
solid three out of five lenscaps. Why do I consider the E-3 to have up
to three lenscaps when I give the 5Dmk4 only one? Because it's a
Canon. That's why. Duh.

This test drive had absolutely nothing to do with sensors, video,
high-ISO performance and so forth. It's just a physical look/feel
aspect to the cameras. The SONY is obviously heavily influenced by
Olympus now. I see the triple heritage (Minolta-Sony-Olympus) that
defines the A7xxx line. And I really like it.

But in the end, what did I do? I grabbed my E-3 and put it to heavy
use and in the end I uploaded about 25 photos for stock. It's a camera
that I can grab and use without fear--as long as the light is decent.
I really do need some better glass for the 4/3 cameras though.

What about the E-1 and DMC-L1? Why didn't I compare them here? Because
I didn't actually touch them all weekend. But I could summarize them
this way. One out of five lenscaps because of the viewfinders and LCD
screens. Both cameras lack that responsiveness that we expect now.
Ergonomically, both are unique. The E-1's biggest strength is the
absolute trust that you can put into the camera that it won't go and
do things behind your back. And the AF switch on the bottom-front-left
of the camera body is the best feature. But the viewfinders and basic
feature sets are so far out of date that 2004 perfection just doesn't
compare to what we have now--especially when you shoot a sequence and
then have to wait a minute for the buffers to clear.

OK, one more comparative. The OM-3Ti. The menus are a bit simplistic,
the viewfinder isn't EVF and the AF is really slow. But everything
else is dead on. Five out of five lenscaps. :)

On a positive note, by following up my shopping trip with a real-world
shoot with the E-3, I'm pretty content with what I have and can
comfortably attack any project without fear. As long as the sensor is
adequate for the job, there is no reason not to shoot the E-3.

AG (caps r us) Schnozz
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