For the past two years I’ve been photographing with two families of DSLR: Nikon and Panasonic. The Nikons have been great cameras but I found myself leaving them at home quite often in favor of my Panasonic Lumix G1. The main reason was the G1 was smaller, lighter and, to be honest, more fun because of all the classic lenses I could adapt to it, including Nikkors.
The only thing the G1 lacked was a movie mode so a few months ago I upgraded the G1 to a G2 which, other than a few refinements, can be seen as a G1 with a movie mode added.
Technically speaking the Lumix G1 and G2 aren’t DSLRs because they lack the R: Reflex. There’s no pentaprism and you’re not looking through the lens. Instead the viewfinder contains a small LiveView LCD that you look at, and it sees through the lens. This is called an EVF, or electronic viewfinder. The ones in the G1 and G2 are state of the art: bright and as easy to shoot with as a D90 DSLR.
So, what to call the cameras if not DSLR? DSL has been used, as has EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens). One publication I write for calls them Compact System Cameras. This is all a little awkward so when I’m not writing for publication, I use poetic license and simply refer to the G1 and G2 as compact DSLRs. They’re certainly DSLR-style.
They are, however, a different class of camera in one important sense: they use a Four Thirds sensor, or “4/3.” The 4/3 sensor is somewhat smaller than the APS-C size in my Nikons, allowing the manufacturers who use it — Panasonic and Olympus — to create small bodied cameras with smaller lenses.
The Panasonic G series, like the Olympus Pen series, use the Micro Four Thirds (m4/3) lens mount, which means that any lens made for m4/3 is interchangeable with any m4/3 body from any manufacturer.
I’ve come to love this format. It’s close enough in size to APS-C to give me as much image quality as I need for my hobbyist photography, and the size and weight is just right in my hands.
So, I decided to simplify: to sell my Nikon gear and invest solely into m4/3. I recently sold my Nikon D90 and I traded in a batch of Nikkors of various generations toward the spiffy Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 prime. Coming soon will be an Olympus 9-18mm wide angle zoom.
For the first time in years I’m down to owning only two digital cameras: Lumix G2 and a much-enjoyed Canon S90 point & shoot that is as small as many cell phones. It simplifies my choices as I walk out the door. If I’m going shopping or to lunch with a friend, I strap on the S90. When I go out deliberately in quest of images, I take the G2.
So far the transition has been satisfying. A bit like having your cake and eating it too. By simplifying, it’s made photography more fun. I concentrate more on shooting than fretting over which DSLR to use. Thoreau was right: “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”