We received the following question from Allen, a 2 Guys Photo follower: “I have a Nikon S70. I like the looks and features of the camera and the fact that it is slim and portable for occasional photography stints. My problem is that it totally stinks (editor’s note: Allen used another word) when it comes to low light shooting. Images come out grainy and dark even with the flash. Also, what is your recommendation among the new crop of the 4/3 cameras?”
Well, Allen… first of all, cameras such as the S70 aren’t exactly known for their lowlight prowess. As it is a smaller sensor camera, your ability to shoot when the light levels drop is naturally going to be limited. When the flash kicks in, however, you ought to get respectable results. Make sure your main subject isn’t more than about six to seven feet away from your camera, however, otherwise you’ll get highly unsatisfactory results. Also, the S70 is equipped with a slew of scene modes, including Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, and Dusk/Dawn all of which attempt to optimize settings to allow for improved low light shooting.
As for the micro 4/3 cameras, there are two companies who currently produce equipment for this format: Olympus and Panasonic. Fujifilm is rumored to be launching a micro 4/3 interchangeable lens camera soon. Additionally, there are two form factors: mini-DSLR and rangerfinder-esque. The mini-DSLR is produced only by Panasonic and includes the G and GH series. The rangefinder form factor includes the Olympus PEN and the Panasonic GF series. I’ve shot pretty extensively with all of these cameras and here’s what I recommend.
First, you should decide which form factor you prefer. If you want something smaller and more pocketable, choose one of the new PENS, most particularly the PEN-mini which won’t be available until Fall, or the GF2 (available now) or the smaller GF3 (available soon). If you really want something that looks and feels like a DSLR and also which includes an electronic viewfinder built in, then you’ll have to choose the Panasonic GH or G series. The G3 is currently being favorably reviewed and I’ve shot a bit with it. It’s quite nice. The battery life, not a strong suit of the micro 4/3 cameras in general, seems particularly weak. A benefit of this type of camera is that they include twist and flip LCD screens, super helpful for odd angle and video shooting. The GH line is optimized for video shooting.
There are some things I like about the Panasonics, most especially the built in viewfinders (on the G and GH) and twist and flip LCDs. The images are naturally sharp and exposure is spot on. Their focus speed has historically been better than on the Olympus models. On the downside, Panasonic colors are cool, even a tad toward greenish in tint. Historically, skin tones are off, leaving subjects looking a tad jaundiced. Olympus PENS are beautifully built and their photos, particularly JPEGs, are warmer and pleasing right out of camera. Skin tones are superb. The only complaint I’ve had about Olympus PENs are that their autofocus has been just ok – not terrible, not great. The new cameras, according to all sources, are superb in terms of focus speed. Adding that to the ledger pushes me over to Olympus… and so that’s what I recommend.
So Allen, if you’re trying to replicate the form factor of the Nikon you currently own, go for one of the new PENS, either the mini or the EPL3. If you want something a bit larger and more customizable (and with a built in flash), the EP3 will suffice.
Posted by Rey
There is one other big difference between the Olympus and the Panasonic cameras. Olympus has image stabilization in the body, Panasonic has it in the lenses. If you end up getting multiple lenses you are paying for stabilization with each lens … and it’s more than the cost. The Panasonic lenses weigh more so you end up carrying more weight in your camera bag.
YES! Thanks for mentioning that, John. I should have. It’s a big difference… and even though many of the Panasonic lenses offer IS, it’s nice to be able to add the primes (which don’t) or an older manual lens (via adapter) and gain stabilization. Great point.