Olympus & Panasonic Impacting Nikon & Canon

Posted Apr. 6th, 2022 by Daniel J. Cox

Olympus & Panasonic Impacting Nikon & Canon

Olympus & Panasonic are impacting Nikon & Canon by creating smaller, lighter systems that people are yearning for. I hear it all the time from our Natural Exposures Explorers. It’s not EVERYBODY, but the vast majority are tired of carrying huge lenses to capture professional-quality wildlife and natural history images.

Nikon perusing much smaller PF lenses

Over the past few years, Nikon has introduced their Phase Fresnel (PF) lenses. This glass design allows a much more compact optic. Lenses to date include the 300mm F/4, the 500mm F/5.6, and recently the 800mm F/6.3. I find all of these lenses quite interesting but not a game changer, since no lenses to date are zooms. I’m a big believer of the superior capabilities zooms give us for composing our images.

Olympus Panasonic Impacting Nikon Canon
This is a small 800mm but wow the whole package is still huge!

If Nikon brings this technology to their 100-400mm or even 200-400mm zooms that could be very interesting. But so far the lack of any zooms with Phase Fresnel glass suggests it may be hard or impossible to do. If Nikon could take this idea across their entire lens line, MFT would lose one of their biggest advantages.

Canon goes smaller with very slow telephoto lenses

Canon has decided to stay the course with traditional glass. They’ve accomplished their downsizing by using much smaller elements which equates to a considerably slower lenses. An example is the Canon 100-500mm F/4.5-7.1 zoom. This is a compelling lens based on the quality I’m hearing about and a price of $2800 USD. Other examples include the 600mm F/8 and the 800mm F/11, both exceptionally slow lenses.

Olympus Panasonic Impacting Nikon Canon

For those who aren’t familiar with the word slow in optical terms, it means you need a LOT OF LIGHT to expose an image with these lenses. Canon seems to be banking on the quality of their sensors to shoot at higher ISOs in exchange for traditional apertures in lenses like these. And I have to say I’ve heard glowing reports about the 100-500 mm lens, mainly from people shooting it with the Canon R5. Canon could be onto something here, but I get a bit suspicious of shooting an F/11 lens for wildlife and nature. So many things happen in the wild at times of day that are very, very short on light.

Olympus lens size and speed advantage

I’m writing this from my room in India. I’ve been here for the last two weeks photographing tigers and other Indian wildlife. I’ve been mainly using the fairly recent 150-400mm F/4.5 with the new Olympus OM-1 camera, and the results have been incredibly positive, especially in low-light situations. The 150-400mm combined with the E-M1X and the new OM-1 give an incredible 8 stops of image stabilization.

150-400mm Olympus with E-M1X on my legs sitting in my kayak in Minnesota. This lens has the magnification equivalent to 1000mm F/5.6.

Below is a tiger image that I shot handheld with the OM-1 and the 150-400mm. We were headed out of the park and the sun had set 30 minutes earlier. Our driver spotted this tiger lying in a ravine just waking up for the evening hunt. Everybody in our vehicle made the decision it was too dark to shoot. I decided it was a great opportunity to really see how the new camera sensor and image stabilization would perform.

I was incredibly impressed. Being able to capture an image in these conditions is difficult at best. Many didn’t even try. Keep in mind this is a JPEG out of the camera, since my RAW processor of choice, DxO PhotoLab, doesn’t support the OM-1 yet.

This is the machine that has trouble running Olympus Workspace. Not sure why since this Mac is a race horse.

I tried the RAW in Olympus Workspace, but it’s so slow on my 2020 MacBook Pro it’s impossible to use. So I processed the JPEG file in DxO as best I could. I’m confident the RAW file will yield even better results when DxO is updated.

Conclusion

So in a nutshell, the smaller, lighter cat is out of the bag. Olympus & Panasonic are impacting Nikon & Canon by making smaller, lighter systems. It’s obvious that Nikon and Canon have felt the pressure. That’s good for all of us. Nobody wants to carry more than they have to unless you’re working out at the gym. As Micro Four Thirds continues to evolve we’re going to see even better sensors. I don’t think anybody can argue with the idea that electronics get smaller, lighter, cheaper, and more effective. That’s the path I’m confident Micro Four Thirds will perfect.

More on the new OM-1 to come.

Add Your Voice!
There are 10 comments on this post…
  1. Terence DayOn Apr. 25th, 2022 (5 months ago)

    Hi Daniel

    Mike Lane a UK Wildlife photographer is currently assessing the OM-1 & 150-400 combo, against the Sony A1 & 200-600

    He compared image quality from both on this video https://youtu.be/4sp8UwFnYz0

  2. Louis BerkOn Apr. 8th, 2022 (6 months ago)

    Thought provoking article. You may recall I was a refugee from Panasonic’s basically awful C-AF system, despite being a staunch Panny m43rds users for many years because when my interest switched from architecture to wildlife the Panny system did not deliver. At the time the only other mirrorless player in the market was Fuji and I’ve been very pleased with the switch for pro work and achieved far better results for my wildlife interest (which is purely for pleasure). However, the Achilles heal in the Fuji system is really not much choice in wildlife lenses. I do envy Olympus with its 100-400, 300 and 150-400 choices. I’ve also been checking out Canon and Nikon and while they really have advanced – their pricing is in my opinion too expensive for what you actually get. The Canon RF100-500 sounds like a great lens but you know from your experience and I know from my far smaller experience that even 500mm is often too short. I am often having to use my TC1.4x with the Fuji 100-400 for bird photography and having to shoot at f9 to ensure good feather detail. Wildlife photographers like yourself are demonstrating that Olympus is still a credible camera system for wildlife and the OM-1 has certainly put the system back on the radar for me. I hope you can eventually process your raw images and that you’ll post some low light examples. I have been trialling the recent DxO Pure Raw 2 processor and I am quite amazed at its ability to create sharp, detailed images with good shadow detail from raws. Thanks again for an interesting article.

  3. Portrait of Joel Kleiner

    Joel KleinerOn Apr. 7th, 2022 (6 months ago)

    It’s great to learn that there are still camera companies willing to invest in new technology to bring to the camera buying consumers. Everywhere I go, I’m the only one with a camera of any type. The Apple iPhone and Android market is the “camera” of choice of the majority of the public. We no longer see people with “Point and shoot” cameras. When travel opens up again (like it was prior to the pandemic) we’ll see more and more people taking photos with their phones. I’m glad independent companies like Nikon and the new Olympus can compete with the enormous companies like, Canon, Sony, and Panasonic. Everyone in every market benefits from competition. I’m fearful that we’re a group of dinosaurs, 🦕🦖. We shall see what’s out there for us photographers once (hopefully soon) the “supply chain” loosens up for technology products.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 7th, 2022 (6 months ago)

      I agree Joel. I worry about the future of real photography.

  4. HarryOn Apr. 7th, 2022 (6 months ago)

    Nice to see your Indian pictures, I am an Indian lover too.
    I am using FT/MFT from the beginning. But as Sony came up with fullframe and eyes/face-recognition, all mFT cameras looked very old with no bite.
    I am glad to see with my new OM-1 – they can now compete until 6400 ISO, with the fist good finder, good AF and battery.
    But AF-C ist still not in reach for Sony or Canon – but they charge 4500-7000€.
    now we should hope für a 2.0/150 mm and 4.5/500 mm and a new 2.8/40-150 mm PRO-IS.

  5. Jeffrey McPheetersOn Apr. 6th, 2022 (6 months ago)

    Good thoughts. I think there are some differences in results based on actual magnification vs field of view, but the differences are not compelling enough for me to prefer the full frame sensor over the m43 sensors. So a 600mm lens on the Canon R3, a very expensive kit, has more magnification of details than the 150-400 on the OM-1 or E-M1X, so technically, pixel peeping, one might see some added hair and feather details in wildlife, but I think if printed or cropped and tested in a blind test, it would not yield a clear winner that anyone would be able to see.

    OM Workspace can be slow but for raw files, have you tried letting the camera do the computational raw processing while attached to your laptop via USB and see how it works? I don’t typically use OM Workspace except for specialized projects, but when I need to process a batch of raw files in those projects, I let the camera handle the processing with Workspace. It’s one of the settings when you plug in the camera and in OM Workspace, in the Tools menus, pick USB Raw Processing.

    Another slight advantage for FF vs m43 in some situations, is when I can get as close as I wish. Due to the wider field of view with the bigger sensor, I can use twice the magnification from a given distance as I can with the Olympus, and in those cases, like with an eagle perched that doesn’t want to fly away, I might be able to compose the full body at 500mm on a FF sensor but only 250mm on the Olympus. But again, does it really become a noticeable issue? Not often, really. There are only two places where I still see a commercial value difference in FF over m43: sports arenas where that wider FOV on FF allows one to shoot with greater background separation due to the ability to use longer focal lengths from a given distance with faster apertures. The second place where FF seems to have an advantage is in special events like orchestra and band group photos where a larger sensor with a lot of megapixels will yield a more detailed enlargement of facial details.

    For me, the bottom line with wildlife and nature is how effective is the camera at allowing me to concentrate mainly on the environment and the subjects without having the gear become too much of a concern, either in trying to conceal it, lug it around, or affecting my proximity too greatly; not allowing me to remain at a safe working distance while also remaining very mobile. Secondly, the computational capabilities with Olympus and Panasonic offer more creative possibilities which thus far, other systems mostly do not offer.

  6. Dixon MarshallOn Apr. 6th, 2022 (6 months ago)

    Your Mac issue could be with the graphics card. That Intel Iris GPU doesn’t work well with a LOT of apps, possibly because it is the new kid in town–relatively speaking. My laptop, a ConceptD 5 Pro uses a fast nVidia GPU, which is basically the gold standard for graphics apps.

    I’m still using my EM1 Mark II, and I think that I will upgrade to the 150-400 lens before switching bodies. That is a really impressive low-light shot of the tigers.

  7. Barry LyonOn Apr. 6th, 2022 (6 months ago)

    Totally agree. Came from Canon to Panasonic and Olympus MF3 sutras and truly haven’t looked back. Fabulous image quality and features in smaller much less expensive format. The technology continues to improve significantly. If the quality wasn’t there I wouldn’t use it. Great article – thanks from Australia!

  8. David BurckhardOn Apr. 6th, 2022 (6 months ago)

    While I’m not a wildlife shooter, if I were, the idea of carrying full-frame would not be so much of a matter of size and weight but cost. With the performance of crop sensor cameras getting so good, the Micro Four Thirds cameras seem to be a great choice that allows lenses with longer reach to be within the budget of even the most frugal shooters. I still love my Nikon D810 and its holy trinity of lenses but with my OM-D, I can buy a 150-600mm equivalent and still have money left to pay the mortgage.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 6th, 2022 (6 months ago)

      Thanks for adding your voice David.

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