There is a lot of talk about camera size these days. Photographers have myriad choices for mirrorless cameras, “enthusiast” compact cameras and even tiny DSLR’s. I don’t think there is anything wrong with cameras getting smaller, to a point.
I think it’s great that there are so many different sizes and shapes to choose from when buying a camera. I’m sure people with small hands are stoked that they don’t have to use a big bulky DSLR to make great photos any more. The thing about a camera is that you have to be able to hold it in your hand and operate the controls. When cameras get so small that they are difficult to use, I think we’ve gone too far.
In my experience…
The Olympus OMD E-M5 was the micro 4/3 camera that allowed me to completely switch from my full-frame Nikon kit. The image quality and small size made me (like a lot of people) enjoy photography again instead of dreading lugging around my giant camera bags.
I was happy with the E-M5 until I picked up a LUMIX GH3. It was still a small and light camera, but it was actually big enough to hold onto and operate the controls. The buttons weren’t too small or too close together, and it just felt great in my hands. Once I got the GH3 I don’t know if I ever used my E-M5 again. My little Oly felt cramped by comparison. I hadn’t realized how many compromises I had been making to shoot with it.
It was an “A-HA” moment for sure. I realized that the main benefit of the micro 4/3 system isn’t the small cameras, it’s the small LENSES. Adding a slightly bigger camera to my bag didn’t change anything at all. I could still pack a pile of small, high-quality glass into my camera bags. And if you travel light and use just a few lenses, all the better! You can use a bag the size of your average lunch box.
The “big” deal about the LUMIX GX8…
I suppose I’m writing this post in response to some of the early reports about the recently released LUMIX GX8. Many bloggers are freaking out because it is a larger camera than it’s predecessor, the LUMIX GX7. I didn’t read anything about the fact that it is still smaller than the flagship LUMIX GH4. I read very little about the fact that the larger size makes it possible to have a better grip, easier to use controls and a new larger EVF.
I will not name names, but I read one “hands-on preview” that lamented the new larger size. The author thought the GX7 was the perfect size camera, so the GX8 was a big (pun intended) disappointment. This particular blogger mentioned that he didn’t see the increase from 16mp to 20mp to be significant, and that the image quality was only marginally better than the Olympus E-M1. If you don’t think that a 25% increase in resolution WITH an improvement in image quality is a big deal, maybe you shouldn’t be a photography blogger. Sorry… just sayin’.
I think the GX8 is a fantastic size and shape. My pinky finger doesn’t hang off of the bottom of the grip. I don’t feel compelled to buy some additional accessories to make the grip comfortable. Don’t get me started about cameras that feel great as long as you purchase the extra grip. Shouldn’t you just design the body to be comfortable in the first place? Anyway, the GX8 feels good in my hands and I think the control layout is great. Even the placement of the strap lugs makes sense. when you pick one up, notice how the strap on the right side is out of the way of all of the controls. So many cameras I’ve seen lately seem to slap the lugs on the side without considering that you need somewhere to put your fingers (cough*FUJI*cough).
And full frame?
I think the “full-frame” mirrorless cameras are backwards. YES, there are advantages for some photographers to use a 35mm sensor. That’s not my point. My point is that a full-frame sensor requires bigger lenses, even on a mirrorless camera. Some of the Sony FE lenses are smaller than their Canon/Nikon counterparts, but some aren’t. How many Sony full-frame lenses are highly regarded and get stellar reviews? When I look at that system I see big mediocre lenses attached to smallish camera bodies with nice big sensors. I much prefer a (relatively) bigger camera and smaller lenses. If I’m going to need big lenses I would rather have a big camera too. At least then I have something to hang on to.
I don’t know about you, but I generally travel with two camera bodies and 4-8 lenses. I’d rather have 2 small cameras and 4-8 small high quality lenses that 2 small camera bodies and 4-8 big heavy lenses every time.