November 23, 2013 Leave a comment
Holiday buying season is upon us and so are reviews and recommendations. Right on cue, dpreview.com recently published their Enthusiast interchangeable lens camera 2013 roundup. If you are at all interested in higher end crop cameras, I encourage you to read it. As is the case with most of the articles published by dpreview, the article is well written by staff who understand photography.
This, however, doesn’t stop me from being again baffled by and in strong disagreement with the conclusion: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 wins over the Nikon D7100. Don’t get me wrong: if I wasn’t heavily invested in Nikon, I am almost certain the E-M1 or E-M5 would be in my bag. No question that these are two exceptional cameras.
What bothers me is that we are supposedly presented with a facts based analysis, when, in reality, the deciding factor is the coolness quotient. The idea that OM-D is cool while APS-C DSLR is “OLD” oozes throughout the article.
Let’s see what the facts are.
First, I will get out of the way the features that are too close to call:
- Build quality: both cameras have excellent build quality, pro-like weather sealing, etc
- Lens Quality: there are exceptional lenses available for both systems
- Viewfinder: I know many will jump at this one, as generally good OVFs are still better than EVFs; personally, I like both for different reasons and in different situations; I think there is enough going for the EVFs to declare this a tie
- Stabilization: Again, a disputed subject: sensor vs. lens stabilization; this is probably material for a full article on its own; again, I think there are so many pros and cons on both sides that it really depends on your particular situation which one is better; we will call it a draw, but you are free to move it to either of the two sections below.
- Crop factor: smaller sensors provide more DOF and favour situations requiring long lenses; larger sensors require slower lenses for the same level of subject isolation; in addition to all of this back and forth, the D7100 has a 2x equivalent crop mode that effectively turns it into an m4/3 equivalent; let’s call this one even.
In favour of the E-M1:
- Camera body size & weight: 497g vs. 675g; not a big deal on its own, but when you factor in lenses, it helps
- Size & weight of the lenses: Although generally not as small as one would hope, lenses for the m4/3 system are smaller and lighter than DX or FX lenses of comparable performance.
- Weight of support gear: you need a lighter tripod or monopod to support the OM-D compared to the D7100 when fitted with lenses that have similar full frame equivalent focal lengths;
- Continuous shooting performance & buffer: 10 fps vs. 6 fps; the RAW buffer is also larger than the one in the D7100;
- Flash sync speed: 1/320s vs. 1/250s
If I missed something significant, please let me know (“really, really cool” might be true, but certainly not significant … ;~) ).
In favour of the D7100:
- Absolute Image Quality: low ISO image quality is significantly better (1EV dynamic range, 3.7dB lower noise, 1.2 bits higher colour depth)
- High ISO image quality: about 0.7 stops in favour of the D7100
- 14 bit RAW: as opposed to 12 bit RAW for the E-M1
- Focus speed and focus tracking: the EM-1 is no slouch, but the D7100 still outperforms it; the gap gets larger as available light is less; this sort of counteracts the continuous shooting performance advantage of the E-M1
- Wider selection of lenses: there is 50 years’ worth of Nikon glass out there …. The “not built for DX” argument is a red herring; it comes down to size (again) and price (although good lenses for the OM-D are not cheap either)
- Price: $1,150 vs. $1,400 for the body only (can you spell “cool factor” ??!!)
- Resolution: 24MP vs. 16MP; no OLPF vs. Yes OLPF; if you need to print big, the D7100 provides significantly more detail at all ISOs
- 1.3x Crop Factor: if you really like the m4/3 form factor, the D7100 has a 1.3x crop mode that results in a total crop factor of 2x, just like m4/3; the 1.3x crop mode virtually nixes the advantage the m4/3 format has at the long end of the lens spectrum; in addition, the 51 focus sensors of the D7100 virtually cover the 1.3x crop frame edge to edge, making continuous focus tracking across the frame even better.
IMHO, choosing between these two excellent cameras comes down to
size, weight and continuous shooting speed (fps and buffer)
final image quality (initial IQ, high ISO IQ, 14bit RAW), sensor resolution, autofocus speed, lens selection, price
In circumstances where size and weight are the driving factors, you cannot go wrong with the E-M1. In most other situations, the D7100 will outperform it.
Oh, by the way, if you were wondering: I really, really don’t care about video. ;~)