Sound Advice: Time to try a Micro Four-Thirds camera

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 13, 2013 - 1:52 PM

Q: I read your review of the $300 Samsung NX1000 and 1100 cameras. They sound good, but do you have suggestions for a more feature-rich mirrorless camera at a low price? I’m an SLR user and thinking of a lighter camera. The APS-C sensor is fine, but I’d like an adjustable screen, as well as an electronic viewfinder.

A: Sony’s new 20.1-megapixel Alpha 3000 uses Sony NEX lenses. It has a built-in electronic viewfinder and an APS-C size sensor, but no adjustable screen. It includes an 18-55 kit lens for $399. Downsides are limited continuous shooting, a plasticky body and a low-resolution viewfinder. Given my past experience with Sony NEX cameras, I expect the Alpha 3000 to have fantastic image and video quality.

My biggest beef with the NEX system is the lenses. Selection is limited, and NEX lenses are almost as big and heavy as their full-sized SLR counterparts. The whole point of these systems is SLR performance and flexibility in a lightweight, compact package. I can fit an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and three lenses in a bag that is about a third the size and half the weight of a comparable SLR camera outfit.

Don’t let yourself get hung up on an APS-C sensor. Micro Four-Thirds cameras belong on your shopping list, too.

The latest Micro Four-Thirds sensors have closed the gap with APS-C.

Steve Huff, who runs the Steve Huff Photo website (www.stevehuffphoto.com), says, “This format is here to stay and the reason is simple. This system has the best lenses, and makes the least compromises while delivering stellar image quality and capabilities. Micro Four-Thirds today is miles better than it was four years ago, and it gets better every year. … I know many pros shooting Micro Four-Thirds, some of who dumped their large full-frame DSLRs to do so.”

I’ve been evaluating the Micro Four-Thirds Panasonic LUMIX G6 recently and am pleased with the improvements over the G1, which I once owned. The G6 feels great in your hands, has excellent controls and is fun to use. Most important, Panasonic’s JPG image quality has improved and is much better than I have experienced in the past, although Olympus is still the class leader in this regard. Panasonic does a better job with video, though. In fact, Panasonic has started marketing its system cameras as “hybrid,” because they do stills and video equally well.

The 16-megapixel Panasonic LUMIX G6 sells for $749. The predecessor LUMIX G5 model performs similarly and sells online for $399 with 14-42 kit lens, reduced from $699. This is the same price as the Sony Alpha 3000, but the G5 has solid build quality, a better viewfinder, a high resolution, adjustable touchscreen, and it gets you into Micro Four-Thirds, the best mirrorless system on the market.

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

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