From Nikon Fx to M43 – Why I Sold my Nikon Gear

I know, what the world needs now is yet another micro four thirds review, right? Let me start by saying I have shot the 35mm SLR format since buying my first traditional film camera (a Nikon N2000) in 1986, all the way through a Nikon D100, D70, D200, and D750. If there’s anyone on earth with an affinity for the full-frame medium and Nikon gear, it’s gotta be me!

I’m not a total DSLR platform snob. I owned a Nikon J5, which is referred to as a CX format camera – I took it on vacation to Australia, and made several nice photos with it.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”12″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]I was ready to go all-in on the Nikon 1 platform, but Nikon abandoned it entirely, choosing instead to introduce a prosumer/professional grade mirrorless platform that’s more expensive than most of their full-frame DSLR gear (Z-series). Also, the price of Nikon1 lenses never really dropped, and the “affordable” lenses are all too slow for my comfort (even those with VR).  Basically, the Nikon 1 platform became a non-starter.

My recent trip to Europe convinced me, though, that I need to reconsider my kit. My back was sore, my wife was annoyed, and I was exhausted carrying a full-frame DSLR kit. When I returned, I started seriously considering my travel kit, and looking for a lighter weight alternative. After looking at several different formats, I became really interested in the Micro Four Thirds format. While it’s been around for several years, it’s still receiving updates (so far) and new product releases, and the resolution is approaching what’s needed for landscape and fine art photography. I decided to dip my toes  into the M43 platform by buying a used Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II – for $270, I ended up with a 16 MP camera with interchangeable lenses (and a lot of available lenses to buy, used or new), great technology in spite of its age, and a wonderful user experience.

Olympus E-M10 Mark II: Picture 1 regular

Early on, I put the camera through its paces on a trip to Tampa, Florida. I took an evening to stroll around two iconic locations: Ybor City and the Tampa Riverwalk, spanning the hot light of early evening, the golden hour, and darkness. What I saw really impressed me!

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”34″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]Two things blow me away compared to my Nikon J5:

  1. Instant shutter release: on the J5, I constantly missed the shot with my grandkids because the shutter was so slow to release. I have no idea why it’s that way, but it takes an eternity to go. The EM10, though, is nearly instantaneous.
  2. The available functionality: the EM10 stands toe to toe not with my J5 (which lacks bracketing, for instance, and which saves “creative” imaging such as HDR as JPG), but actually with my D750 in terms of bracketing, HDR, and other more advanced features. I have found a few on-camera features in the EM10 which aren’t even on the Nikon D750, and thought to myself “Nikon, take a lesson here!

Oh and by the way, Nikon: Olympus’ iOS and Android applications actually just work, without any fuss. Trigger the camera, copy photos off… They work. Is it really too much to ask? (And GoPro Quik – take note that Olympus doesn’t make me create and use a cloud account, either.)

In a word, what started as a hesitant toe-dipping has turned into serious competition for my attention and my money. I’ve had two Nikon bodies and one Olympus body, and more and more I found myself reaching for the Olympus for most every outing. Over time, I came to rely on it even for “fine art” images.

I was lucky enough to take a subsequent trip, this time to French Polynesia. I bought a small camera sling bag, and geared up with my EM10 and was thrilled with the results. Check out the photos I made in my galleries:

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”24,26,28,29″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]What drove a lifelong Nikon user like me to even consider another manufacturer isn’t just Nikon’s abandoning the Nikon 1 platform, but their heavy emphasis on the pro shooter with their new mirrorless offerings. The feature set is impressive, don’t get me wrong, but the price puts these cameras squarely out of reach for me. Camera bodies are pricey, but lenses are even worse – and in a market where there are no used lenses available yet. They have also ignored the prosumer travel market, making mirrorless cameras which are almost as big as their DSLR brothers.  The whole intent for going mirrorless (at least for me) is to lighten up my kit. So Nikon practically drive me into the arms of Olympus, Panasonic and others who sell small, lightweight M43 cameras.

After my short experience with the EM10 Mk II, I d some research and decided this is what my ultimate kit looks like:

  • M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 wide zoom
  • M.Zuiko 14-40mm f/2.8 zoom (long enough to be a compelling portrait and wedding lense)
  • M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom (long enough to make a run at wildlife photography)
  • Olympus EM1-Mk II: This is a 20 MP camera capable of 80 MP high res shots. It’s a pro body–well made, weather sealed, and build to be used. It has a vertical grip available (which I got with my purchase), and a zillion features. I’ll do a follow-up blog on this camera down the road.

The EM10 proved itself a worthy camera on my trip to Tampa, responding well to bright light as well as sunset and nighttime shots. The feature set is as robust as any Nikon delivers (perhaps even better), and the lighter weight approach leaves me a lot less exhausted after a couple hours on my feet with a camera. Given that, and as I consider my options for upgrading Nikon or moving to Olympus entirely, I ultimately made the call and have moved fully onto the Olympus platform, with an OM-D EM1 Mark II body, with the “trinity” listed above (the 7-14mm, 14-40mm, and 40-150mm f/2.8 zooms).

Image result for olympus omd em1 mark ii

The bottom line for me is this: I have sold or am selling every single piece of Nikon equipment, and I’m heading into a photography-heavy year with additional travel, some automotive shoots and (hopefully) a couple of fine art projects. And I’m not worried at all – in fact, I’m itching to get somewhere to shoot and break in this new EM1!