Top Two Micro Four Thirds Cameras | 2017 Reviews
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last ten years, you've probably noticed the huge growth of the digital SLR camera trend. People don't want a simple 'point and shoot' anymore (they have that on their phones), they want all the bells and whistles. But DSLR cameras are big, heavy and bulky. What if there was a smaller, lighter camera, with all the benefits of an SLR?
A micro four thirds camera is an amazing compromise between the two worlds. You have a much smaller and more compact product, but you can exchange lenses like an SLR and take incredible photos with manual controls. Why not have your cake and eat it too?
This article will be reviewing two of the best micro four thirds cameras around today, and I'll explain in detail why each one is so spectacular. I hope that by the end of it all those silly thoughts of owning a huge, heavy SLR will be swept from your mind.
If you require clarification on any of these points or just want to say hello, please feel free to leave a message in the comments section at the bottom!
Differences: Micro Four Thirds Camera to SLR
Before we get into the camera reviews themselves, I wanted to touch on the differences between a standard digital SLR and the better micro four thirds cameras available today.
- Let's start with the first and most obvious difference: a DSLR is noticeably bigger and bulkier. You'll find that a top quality micro 4/3 is about 30% smaller and lighter, depending on the lenses.
- Micro four thirds digital cameras have a digital viewfinder, whereas SLR cameras use a mirrored optical viewfinder. That's purely because a micro four thirds doesn't have the space to fit a mirror. Because of this, a micro 4/3 camera will use a contract based auto focus, which makes them a bit slower to shoot than a DSLR. This gap in speed is closing, however.
- Another big difference is image sensor size. Obviously the bigger the camera, the bigger the sensor, which technically speaking affects image quality. Truthfully, they are quite close. Unless you're very picky, you'll be very happy with a good micro four thirds camera in this regard. They are miles ahead of both compact and bridge cameras in this realm.
There are many similarities between a DSLR and a micro 4/3 camera, but the most notable is the fact that virtually everything you can do with a DSLR, you can do with the smaller micro four thirds variety. They are comparable in image quality, lens options, manual controls and usability. I actually prefer them over DSLR. I've listed some of their key advantages at the bottom. But first, let's get to the reviews!
PEN E-PL7: One of the best micro four thirds cameras for your money
Olympus and Panasonic originally partnered in 2008 to introduce the micro 4/3 standard that exists today, so it makes sense that they are the current industry leaders. The PEN E-PL7 is a wonderful, compact and gorgeous camera with a ton of utility. And it takes amazing photos!
Let's start on the size: without a lens in place, this camera easily rivals most 'point and shoot' models for being compact and space efficient. It's hard to imagine how they shoehorned all the guts into this thing.
The image quality on this camera is phenomenal. The sensor size is almost equivalent to most DSLR cameras, and as a result you have huge images with excellent clarity and contrast. In addition, they've added image stabilization technology just like on a higher end DSLR, and a powerful image processor that makes shooting very rapid. There are 16 megapixels to play with, which is probably more than you'll need for most applications.
There are all sorts of nice features, like the instantaneous video button. You know how there's always that lag when switching to HD video on a DSLR? Not on this one! Even if you're just about to take a photo, you can simply press the record button and it will start seamlessly.
The included lens is 14-42mm and it's very small and unobtrusive. It's decent for vacations and snapping quick shots, but I do encourage you to expand your lens collection. Add a few super zoom lenses and play around.
With features like Live Guide, this is an excellent camera for someone who wants to learn how to snap phenomenal photographs, but it has the manual controls and lens versatility to make even a seasoned shooter pretty happy.
The feel is an underrated thing on this camera. It just feels great in your hands, and it has a good weight to it with a solid casing. Definitely one of the best micro four thirds cameras around, and very affordable too.
Panasonic GX7KS: Feature rich, small & powerful micro 4/3 camera with 4K
As I mentioned earlier, Panasonic and Olympus partnered to create the micro four thirds standard, so it's no surprise that one of the best cameras in this genre is by Panasonic.
The GX7KS has modern features, a great and intuitive design and user interface, and takes photos that easily rival those of a DSLR, all in a very compact and light package.
The image quality is outstanding, and the camera sensor is surprisingly excellent for the size. You get over 16 megapixels, and the contrast is great with virtually no noise or distortion.
And if you're looking to shoot some video, this is a great choice as you can film in 4K resolution. That's ultra high definition, and it'll look particularly great if you've got a widescreen TV or computer monitor. Crisp, sharp, detailed.
Like the Olympus, you have a lot of versatility with lens choice. You can opt for using larger lenses that were originally intended for other mounts (with an adaptor), or you can use purpose built micro 4/3 lenses in order to save some weight and size. Panasonic even offers a compatible lens made for 3D photography.
They have also addressed past issues with contrast based autofocus and the slower reaction time, so they've sped up autofocus and virtually eliminated the lag issues you'd otherwise experience. AF is so quick on this model, you probably won't notice an appreciable difference between this and a DSLR.
There are other nice features on this camera, such as the motion control settings which reduce blur when photographing while on the go or capturing moving subjects. There's a built-in noise reduction software that ensures photos are crisp and clear.
The large, 3 inch LCD screen is crisp, bright and clear, and it's a touchscreen, so you can intuitively navigate through the menus like a smartphone (without any annoying little click buttons to use).
An additional bonus is the built-in digital viewfinder, which isn't often found on a camera of this price. It even tilts, for when you're capturing a photo low to the ground.
Overall this is one of the best micro 4/3 cameras out there. It's quick, responsive, powerful, crisp and has a solid feel that will encourage you to get out there and take more shots!
There are a few significant advantages of micro four thirds cameras as well. Since you're hunting for one I assume you know a bit about them already, but just in case, here are a few quick advantages they have:
- The shorter distance from the flange to the sensor means that most lenses can be used with a micro 4/3 (with an adaptor), meaning your existing lenses likely won't collect dust.
- The lack of a mirrored optical viewfinder and moving shutter means that there is less noise, less weight, and the camera has fewer moving parts, making it a safer bet in terms of durability and maintenance (in my opinion).
- Only slightly larger than a compact or bridge, but the sensor is many times better and results in a cleaner and sharper image (plus you can swap lenses, a huge plus).
I could keep naming advantages for several pages, but I'll leave it at that for now.
What kind of photographer is a micro 4/3 camera ideal for?
Because it's still somewhat of an unknown to many photographers, a lot of people aren't quite sure what to make of the micro 4/3. The truth is that it's a powerful and user friendly camera that straddles the line between a compact / bridge camera and a DSLR without any noticeable deficiencies on either side.
For that reason, a micro four thirds camera is one of the best choices for someone who is new to photography but wants to take top notch photos and progress towards a more professional shot. The full manual controls and interchangeable lenses ensure tons of creative possibilities and overall utility.
If you already own an SLR, don't be put off by the smaller size. It's actually quite freeing to be rid of the bulk of a larger model, and (after an adjustment period), you will likely be just as happy with it as you are with your larger camera.
If you already own some lenses, be sure to look into an appropriate adapter before you dive in. You might as well use what you already have!
If you have unanswered questions or just want to say hi, please comment below. Thanks for reading!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions about these or other cameras?
Charley on July 25, 2017:
I use an Olympus em10 Mark II for professional photography of architecture, landscapes, candid photos at parties and employees working.
It works really well for the types of photography I do which are not action photography. The contrast autofocus is great for architectural photography and landscapes because I can use a linear polarizer.
The small size and weight of the camera makes it easy to carry around and makes it look non-threatening to people when I'm shooting candids. The old school retro style appearance of the camera and lens charms people and makes them more cooperative for photos. I also like how quiet the camera is compared to a DSLR.
The photo quality is just as good as a DSLR for publishing photos on the Internet or printing up to 11 x 14. The only reason to go to a larger sensor would be to print 16 x 20 or larger.
I don't miss my DSLR at all.
The only downsides are short battery life and it doesn't focus fast enough for action photos. However I don't professionally do action photography so it doesn't really matter to me.
Paul on May 03, 2017:
I read somewhere that the Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.8 is a popular lens with micro 4/3 photographers. Which micro 4/3 cameras would this lens be suitable for and is there an adapter for it?
Mike Leal from London on March 05, 2016:
Amazing Hub. I am trying to increase my knowledge about photography and digital cameras and I found you Hub very informative. I am planning to get back into my passion for photography when I get enough time off from work and am considering to buy a camera. Your Hub has given me an option of buying a DSLR or a Micro 4/3. Maybe I will be able to buy both. Thanks.