I think of myself as a Nikon/Fuji “shooter” yet I have always kept other equipment in my camera closet for use in situations where an expensive DSLR-lens combination would be at risk of loss due to dunking or dropping, or would be too heavy and or bulky to be practical.
For years I shot Olympus bodies in this role. These bodies were part of what was then a new system based on the Olympus/Panasonic “four thirds” standard: a sensor and lens mount designed to allow digital bodies to be smaller, yet to make better images. My Olympus bodies had nice image quality, were image stabilized, and there was stunning high quality optics available for the system. Even their “kit” lenses were sharp and very usable, but cheaply replaceable if damaged. The the body and lens were still fairly bulky, more so than was often convenient.
In January ’08 I acquired my first Panasonic G-1 a digital body of the new “micro four thirds” standard, an offshoot of the earlier specification. The same lens mount as was on the full “four thirds” cameras was utilized, but the lenses were much smaller and designed to focus on a sensor that was much closer to their posterior element. The sensor had a robust “live view” capability and the mirror and optical viewfinder was replaced with a very high quality LCD “finder” detailed enough to allow even manual focusing.
Because of this the overall package, with the kit lens was 20-30% less bulky than even the Olympus SLRs. The sensor at 12 million pixels produced highly detailed images. Though the sensor’s dynamic range was limited (see my Fuji article below) the electronic viewfinder allows exposure data to display as you compose the image (as opposed to after) that helps to optimize the exposure, and mitigate somewhat this limitation. The other attraction of this system is that it is very adaptable to lenses from other manufacturer. My Olympus lenses work beautifully with an adapter; so does some wonderful old Leica glass.
These cameras are seductive. I can carry the body with two stabilized lenses covering 35mm equivalent focal lengths of 28-400mm in a modest sized fanny pack. Without the camera motion that is induced by SLR “mirror slap”, tripods can be lighter. The system has limitations, but it can be a hiker’s dream.
Now I have acquired an upgraded version of the G1. The GH1 has a better sensor with more dynamic range and better high ISO capability. It sensor allows you to shoot in multiple formats without having to crop out pixels.
It has one other new feature.
The GH1 like several other new SLRs or SLR-like bodies comes with video, in this case, fairly seriously high-definition, 1080p video. There is an on camera microphone, capable of recording rather accurate digital stereo sound (sorry about the heavy breathing).
This extends the imaging capabilities of this device into dimensions I hadn’t previously explored. Sound and motion add a dimension to imaging that as a still photographer I am just starting to grapple with.
I think it’s going to be fun.
As always, the images can be better viewed on Glensummitimage.com