Home > mint-lounge > features > Lounge review: Alternatives to heavy DSLRs

There isn’t any one size fits all camera that can tick all the boxes of performance, portability, features and futureproofing. Your choice will obviously depend on what is more important to you. For instance, Panasonic’s big camera can record 4K videos, while Olympus has a compact mirrorless camera that clicks fantastic photos.

Panasonic Lumix GH4

1,67,950 (with 12-35mm F2.8HD lens)

The GH4 (DMC-GH4AGC) mirrorless camera is the successor to the very popular GH3. It has a completely new lens but retains the same pixel count, 16.05, as earlier. The GH4 can record videos in 4K resolution—4,096x2,160/24 frames per second (fps) and 3,840x2,160/30 fps. This is an element that can be filed away under “future-proofing", at least till 4K TVs and monitors for computers become more popular. The GH4 has a new Digital Live MOS sensor and a Venus Engine image processor, which uses a quad-core chip. All in all, a big improvement.

Although the GH4 is technically a compact camera, the design, build and in-hand feel are closer to a mid-range DSLR. The handgrip is large, with a rubbery finish that makes it easy to hold. The body is made of a magnesium alloy shell which is both water- and dust-resistant thanks to the seals around every single dial, physical button and joint.

The GH4 is designed for advanced users, and the controls will not be easy to navigate if you are not familiar with powerful cameras. A certain degree of customization is, of course, possible—there are five function buttons that can be set to trigger specific features and commands.

In terms of performance, one element that stands out is the image quality at higher ISO settings. Right up to ISO 6400, the images are crisp and detailed. At the lowest ISO level of 100, the GH4 reproduces more detailing than most other cameras in its segment.

Panasonic has rejigged the auto-focus system, and the GH4 has better tracking and quicker focus speed than its predecessor. It can lock focus on the subject fairly quickly, but even a slight movement can undo that.

There is a definite improvement in the exposure levels, and the level of detailing captured in photographs taken in shadows is extremely good. However, the camera tends to get a tad confused when you are shooting in a place where only some areas are brightly lit. The exposure tends to suffer if you don’t experiment with the angles of available light.

Colour reproduction, for some reason, seems subdued in many of the shots, though composition tweaks can solve any issue with extra light on any side of the frame that may be throwing off the metering and spoiling contrast. The GH4 also has a setting that allows a user to boost photo saturation automatically after clicking a picture.

The Lumix GH4 was surprisingly sluggish when shooting in low light. Sometimes, it seemed to take forever to process shots. It’s probably a software optimization issue rather than a hardware bug.

The GH4 is a good option if you’re planning to shoot 4K videos in the future. However, if still photography is your primary concern, there are better options in the same segment—the Canon EOS 7D Mark II Kit (with EF-S18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM) is priced at 1,50,795 and the Sony Alpha 7II ILCE-7M2K (with a SEL2870 Lens) at 1,54,990.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

70,191 (with M.Zuiko digital EZ 12-50mm lens)

Even though just the Mark II moniker has been added to the name, there are big changes in terms of design, image processing and performance. It also has Wi-Fi.

The dimensions of 123.7x85x44.5mm ensure compactness. The camera weighs a light 469g. Some parts of the matte black body have a textured finish. The dash of silver here and there adds a bit of sparkle to an otherwise understated design.

This is a typical interchangeable lens camera design, focused on keeping weight and size in check. The redone button placement feels a bit cluttered—there are the usual buttons around the direction keys on the back, and a plethora of controls on the top. All this can be a bit overwhelming till the fingers get used to the positioning.

The on-screen interface has been tweaked, but it too can still be overwhelming initially.

The real audience for mirrorless cameras isn’t the photography experts, but enthusiasts who are just getting the hang of expensive cameras. So it is important to keep it easy—and Sony has been pretty much spot on.

The back is home to the 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a 3-inch LCD with a touch screen. In the earlier E-M5, the LCD could only be tilted; in the Mark II, it can be twisted outwards, even in camcorder mode. The display is slightly reflective, though, and can be a bit annoying in sunlight.

Olympus has added the Wi-Fi feature, which means you can transfer images to a smartphone (iOS or Android) for sharing without the cumbersome method of plugging the memory card into a computer.

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II has a quick focus and an even quicker shutter. There is no sign of the lag that sometimes shows up in mirrorless cameras. Its autofocus system locks on to the subject in less than half a second even in low light conditions and keeps focusing effortlessly even if there is slight camera movement.

In a day and age when 24-megapixel sensors are becoming common though, the Mark II’s 16-megapixel sensor does seem a bit inferior, at least on paper.

However, a robust image-processing algorithm gets down to work after you click on the shutter button, and the photos are very good. The in-lens image stabilization compensates for camera shake and doesn’t allow blurring to spoil otherwise perfectly good photos. They are, in fact, much sharper than those taken with the Sony Alpha NEX-C3, and distortions and noise are kept well in check in low-light photos. However, there is an issue with uneven exposure if the lighting isn’t perfect, or there is flaring around the composed frame.

The high-resolution shot mode takes eight photographs and combines parts of them together into one image with a 40-megapixel resolution—a fun feature for really intricate photos, such as those capturing a sunset.

All in all, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s weaknesses do not outweigh its strengths. It is a light, small camera that can capture extremely rich and detailed photos.

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