Sound Advice: Olympus is the pick for midrange cameras

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2012 - 2:27 PM

Q We are in the market for a midrange digital SLR camera and need your advice. We need something easy to use that takes sharp pictures. We travel a great deal, love to take pictures and are planning a trip to Tanzania next year. On this trip we expect to take long-distance shots. We are leaning toward Nikon or Canon, just because they are all the cameras we see on our travels. Our budget is about $2,000.

A Nikon and Canon completely rule at the high end. If I were a professional shooting sports or weddings, I would probably buy a couple of top-of-the-line Canon or Nikon bodies with a set of fast pro zoom lenses to match.

Despite the "big two" dominating at the high end, I have always thought that in the middle and lower price ranges, you can get better quality with Pentax and Olympus.

The best camera for you is not even a digital SLR but a new interchangeable lens Micro Four-Thirds camera from Olympus, the OM-D E-M5. It looks and performs like an SLR, but it has a built-in electronic viewfinder.

For years, I have recommended the Olympus Micro Four-Thirds cameras and lenses because they are compact and light, they produce amazing pictures right from the camera with no tweaking necessary, the bodies have image stabilization, and even the inexpensive kit lenses are sharp.

In the past, the downside to Micro Four-Thirds has been that the sensor is somewhat smaller than the APS-C sensor in most Canons and Nikons, which gave them an edge in low light. The OM-D E-M5 has a new 16-megapixel sensor that gives up nothing to them. Combined with its sharp lenses and incredible JPG-image processing, the Olympus compact system offers world-class image quality that puts more expensive cameras to shame.

You can see for yourself. Go to www.tinyurl.com/bpaaetj to see DP Review's comparison tool for the OM-D E-M5. Select Canon EOS 7D in one of the drop-down boxes and Nikon D7000 in one of the others. You will see that the Olympus' image quality is dramatically superior. The OM-D EM-5 records HD video, as well.

The OM-D with a 14- to 42-millimeter lens is $1,099. The $269 40-150mm lens is a good choice for long-distance shots. For less than $1,400, you get a comprehensive outfit that is small and light with cutting-edge features and image quality. If you want extreme magnifying power, you can get the 75-300mm lens for $899 and still be at $2,000.

The OM-D EM-5 is the toast of the photographic world right now, playing to some of the best reviews I have seen in years. The camera is back-ordered for months, but with your trip a year away you have time to order one. It will be worth the wait.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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