While I liked the Sony NEX-6, it was missing some redeeming qualities of the Micro Four Thirds (m43) format.
First was size and weight, which can be a big issue when you shoot portraits. There aren’t that many times when I’ve been the subject of a portrait, but large cameras can be intimidating and they are a reality with 35mm film and full frame digital cameras. Even the sound of the mirror can be off-putting to some subjects. Sony’s APS-C sensor takes some of the size away, but most m43 lenses are even smaller and by necessity, wider.
The second thing I liked about m43 was it would shoot any aspect.
Square, 3:2 (35mm), 4:3 (SD TV) and 16:9 (HD TV) were available in RAW and Jpeg. I’ve always like the square format and having it natively was a big plus for me. I had also invested in some nice wide lenses in m43 and a SpeedBooster to make better use of the vintage Nikor lenses.
What I didn’t like was the G6 camera. I really wanted to, but it just never felt comfortable. The plastic feel, and the lack of dedicated buttons meant that you were always going through menus to make adjustments. On a lark, I found a Panasonic GH3 on eBay with an auction that ended at 5am eastern. I was able to get it pretty easily for a fraction of what comparable bodies were selling for. The GH3 was the flagship camera of Panasonic’s Lumix line and nearly everyone who owned one seemed to think highly of it.
It only took a couple of shoots and now the GH3 is my favorite camera. The NEX-6 is still a great street shooter, but the GH3 with the external grip feels every bit as comfortable to me as my Nikon F3 at about 1/4 of the weight. I’ll go into the lenses in a later post, but I took the GH3 on a trip to Williamsburg and I was totally sold. Shooting in the dark at ISO 3200 I got amazing images lit by firelight. The noise is easily manageable and gives the images a nice grain like texture during the conversion to B/W.
The camera is well balanced with the external battery grip and with the extra battery I shot all day ( images and video ) without swapping. As a video camera it’s tough to beat. With a headphone and mic jack (which the NEX-6 lacks) it captures great close subject audio with a medium shotgun mic into a Beachtek mixer. It has a low noise floor and perfect sync with the IPB mov codec.
For me the closer is having dedicated buttons for ISO, White Balance, and Exposure Compensation. The menus are better on the GH3 also, but with practice, you can make adjustments without having to take your eye off the finder. It also has a touchscreen and a fully articulated screen. Both features are lacking on the NEX-6.
+1 on the viewfinder as well. It has lower resolution than the NEX-6, but it feels closer to an optical finder with less lag, particularly in low light.
I know the GH4 is out and 4K will certainly be the next big thing. And while it’s generally best not to buy the first version of anything electronic, the GH4 may prove to be irresistible since it’s a solid performer like the GH3.