Recently, I have been shooting with mirrorless cameras primarily. After trying the Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Fuji XE-1, I decided to settle upon the Olympus OM-D EM-5. The past weekend I had a chance to take the Panasonic offering for a spin. This is a quick reflection of two of the best high end micro four thirds format cameras on the market.
Here is a less than 1200 word comparison review. There are plenty of OMD reviews so I don't want to re-hash what's already been done. This is simply a comparison of the design, ergonomics, image quality and usability of each camera.
OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5, PANASONIC LUMIX GH3, PANASONIC SUMMILUX 25MM F1.4, OLYMPUS 12MM F2.0, OLYMPUS 45MM F1.8 AND ZEISS LEICA M BIOGON F2 LENSES.
ERGONOMICS AND USABILITY:
As far as usability, both cameras provide the same type of features. I did find that manually focusing with legacy lenses proved to be more difficult using the Panasonic's digital view finder. There is something about the viewfinder and the LCD of the Olympus that is slightly easier to use when manually focusing. Both view finders are extremely bright and extremely capable, however, for me personally I did not feel confident that my focus was spot on when shooting with my Zeiss 35mm F2 Biogon Lens. Ergonomically, the GH3 is better in regards to fitting in your hands, however, I feel that this is expected considering that the GH3 is remarkably closely shaped like an entry level DSLR. All of this is negated by the Olympus HLD-6 grip. Once the grip is installed on the OMD, it has a solid feel in your hands and is noticeably slimmer than the GH3.
As far as dials, custom controls and the basic setup. I feel that the GH3 wins in this category. It reminds me a lot of my old Canon cameras with a dedicated ISO, and WB button. Also the drive dial on the left is extremely convenient. The OMD is highly customizable and can be setup in a number of ways to compensate, but straight out of the box the GH3 has a much more convenient button layout.
Build quality easily goes to the Olympus here. The GH3 has a quality build, but feels very plasticky. I liken it to the Canon 60D, the body is stable but when you grab a 5D Mark III you can easily distinguish which camera is built better. The OMD has an almost metallic quality to it, a solidarity that you just don't get with the GH3. When I pick up the OMD I feel like I have a real piece of kit in my hand, when I grab the GH3 I feel that there is something missing.
Both cameras both have excellent output, easily the best of any four thirds camera. At low ISOs four micro four third sensor cameras such as these can hang with the big boys. I am hoping that Metabones develops a Speed Adapter so I can get narrower depth of field for portraits.
Personally, I prefer the skin tones of the OMD over the Panasonic. Now for those of you who are tech nerds like myself, you will argue that the GH3 is for videographers more so than still photographers, but for a $1500 price tag I feel that I should like the output of stills as well as video. The images from the GH3 just felt flat, I didn't feel that the sensor brought out the personality of the lenses. Most of the unedited photos felt like they didn't have any emotion. That's not to say that you can't get what you want in post processing, but it's nice to not do any additional editing. Since I take photos of people, the OMD just does it for me in regards to preserving skin tones and having a bit of life to them. In looking at the photos below, the skin tones of the OMD feel more natural while the white balancing of the GH3 has a warmer tone. This maybe a matter of preference but straight out of the camera the OMD wins here for me. Both photos below are completely unedited.