Sony a6000 vs Panasonic GX7 vs Olympus OM-D E-M10 CSC Comparison

June 10, 2014

Sony a6000, Panasonic GX7 and Olympus OM-D E-M10 cameras banner

In this article I will compare the Sony Alpha a6000 vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 and Olympus OM-D E-M10. All three are compact system cameras, and all are popular among enthusiast photographers looking for an advanced CSC. We’ll get familiar with those three cameras and learn to understand the cons and pros of each one. I hope that after reading this article, you’ll get a much better understanding regarding which camera fits your shooting style best, based on its features, image quality and performance compared to its peers.

We’ll start with a short introduction to each camera (well, kind of short), and then we’ll continue to the in-depth comparison review section, where you’ll be able to comprehend the differences between those three cameras.

Sony a6000

Sony a6000

Sony a6000

The Sony Alpha a6000 is Sony’s most popular mirrorless camera on amazon.com, capturing both the first position (Kit) and the second position (body only).  The Sony a6000 is one of those cameras that seems to be sewn to many enthusiasts, that until the a6000 was announced on February 2014, had to make some tough compromises. Whether it’s because of the tight budget, cumulative features demands, it seems that everyone was waiting for the perfect mirrorless.

Maybe “perfect” is not the right word, but I personally didn’t want to pass over a high quality electronic viewfinder, wanted a camera that perform admirably in low-light and one with decent video quality and fast performance — can we get it all in one package?

The Sony Alpha a6000 tries to do that just, be a all-around excellent camera for a reasonable price.  The body of the a6000 costs around $600 as of the time of writing. This isn’t cheap as the a5000 (~$450) or cheap as some other entry-level mirrorless cameras, but you do get a lot in return, as you’ll soon see.

The A6000 is relatively compact camera if you compare it to some other mirrorless, and especially versus a DSLR camera. It comes with a 24.3 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor. Some of you might raised an eyebrow, thinking to yourself if there is going to be an end for this megapixel race. However, although I personally prefer less pixels and much better low-light performance, the a6000 was able to maintain very good high ISO performance, even with its high resolution factor. This shows us how advanced Sony’s sensors are.  Each pixel of the a6000 measures approximately 3.92 microns, so it’s not that small at all, especially if you compare it to some of the Micro Four Thirds or Nikon 1 offering.

The a6000 boasts Sony’s latest BIONZ X image processor, can shoot at impressive 11 fps in bust mode with AF tracking. The AF system utilizes both the contrast-detect AF and phase-detection AF technologies, including 25-point CDAF and 179-point PDAF (aka Hybrid AF). This allows the camera to focus faster and more accurately as opposed to a contrast only based AF and one with fewer autofocus points. This works for both stills and movie recording as well.

The a6000 boasts a Wi-Fi and NFC wireless connectivity, which allows you toe bind your camera with a smartphone or tablet device (e.g. Apple iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPad, etc.). When pairing the two and once you installed the proprietary PlayMemories app, you’ll be abble to easily share photos and videos from your camera, upload them to a remote location, edit them on your phone and also remotely control the camera through the phone app, which acts like a remote control / live view app for the a6000.

The a6000 has intuitive controls that offers fast access to frequently used functions. This also includes among others, two custom buttons (C1 at the top, C2 at the back) and two dials. The camera has a very comfortable rubber-textured grip that gives a good secure feel when you hold the camera in one hand.

At the back you have a 3.0-inch 921.6K-dots LCD that tilts 90 degrees up and 45 degrees down for low and high-angle shots. This is not a touch-sensitive display though, something to keep in mind if you wanted a camera with a touchscreen. The camera also comes with a built-in 1440K-dots OLED electronic viewfinder. This is one features that I personally find it hard to live without. I always prefer shooting with a viewfinder, although I don’t mind living without it if it compromises the portability for my walkaround camera. For a mirrorless camera, I think that most photographers agree that this is a very useful features. It makes it much easier to compose your shots, especially when shooting in bright daylight or/and against a very bright light source. I also find it to elevate the experience.. It’s like you and the subject, nothing else important — and I cherish these moment with every photo I take.

You also get to enjoy 1080p60/24 (progressive frame rate) videos with stereo sound, Clean HDMI output for video recording, but the camera lacks a mic or headphone socket, although you have the option to mount the Sony ECM-W1M wireless microphone attachment to improve the audio quality of your videos.

There isn’t much to complain about the a6000. It really does many things and does it as it should. There are many photographers that know how to appreciate a good mirrorless camera when they see one, and the a6000 is one of those cameras. Dpreview gave this camera the Gold Award, and it grabbed many high ratings from leading camera review websites. So although you might find some features missing compared to the other two cameras I compare here, the a6000 should certainly be positioned high on your list, even if you opt to compare it versus other mirrorless cameras, ones that are not compared here in this article.

Panasonic Lumix GX7

Panasonic Lumix GX7

Panasonic Lumix GX7

The Panasonic Lumix GX7 is a high-end  mirrorless camera, some categorized it as mid-range, but the price speaks for itself. You can buy it for around $900 with the 14-42mm, which for some reason it cheaper if you buy it without a lens (~$1000). The price might be a bit stiff for some, and that is why in my opinion, the Alpha a6000 sound like a good alternative for some people.

Price aside, the GX7 really shines when it comes to its overall feature pack, and most of those features are indeed useful. The GX7 brings to many photographers what the a6000 brings, lots of features! — but this time in a less tempting price tag.

There is plenty to talk about, and as you’ll soon see, the GX7 is really one of the most interesting mirrorless cameras for 2013/2014. At the heart of the camera is a 16 megapixels Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor. This sensor is significantly smaller than that of the APS-C of the a6000. Even though it has only 16MP, due to the sensor size, those pixels are smaller (3.76 microns) than the a6000 (3.92 microns). This shows you why Sony wasn’t afraid to go with a higher resolution, it wanted to take advantage of the fact that its alpha cameras use a large sensor, so why not give their users enjoy a higher resolution.

Unfortunately, the GX7 sensor doesn’t employ phase-detection pixels. This means that the GX7 only utilizes the advantage of contrast-detect AF alone. This reduces the AF capabilities of the GX7 by quite a large margin compared to cameras using a hybrid AF system. For me it was petty to see that Panasonic ditched the phase-detection AF option, as many mirrorless cameras do come with this option, and some of them are much less expensive than the GX7.

I think that most photographers would be happy to have a hybrid AF, but if you are not that concerned about it,  Panasonic did spoil us with other unique features instead.

At the back of the camera you’ll find one of the features that is unique to the GX7 and that is the 2764K-dot 0.7x magnification 90-degree tilting electronic viewfinder. Yep, you read it right, a tilting viewfinder. You can use this high-res viewfinder to compose from above the camera, rather than forcing yourself to shoot from behind the camera as with the non-rotating viewfinders. This can come in handy for macro photography for example, but at times that is not comfortable or possible to lie down or bent down to compose your shot.

The camera also employs an in-camera sensor-shift using the Lumix Mega O.I.S. technology that works with every lens you attach to the camera. This IBIS mechanism was criticize for a few reasons: first the stabilization is not available for image composition, which means that you don’t see the stabilization effect when looking through the viewfinder or the rear LCD (I find it to be an issue only with telephoto zoom lenses, not with wide angle or normal zoom lenses). Second, the IBIS doesn’t work in movie mode and thirds, and third, the IBIS is not effective as photographers might as hoped. So according to what I’ve read, you can expect around 2-stop advantage. The OM-D E-M5 5-axis IBIS is more effective in comparison.

*video by TheCameraStoreTV YouTube user

Other features include: 1/8000 sec shutter speed, 5 fps burst shooting (40 fps if you use the electronic shutter in SH mode), 1080p60/30/24 and 1080i60 Full HD video recording, timelapse and panorama functions, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, lots of built-in filter effects, focus peaking and Pinpoint AF, 3.0″ touch-enabled tilting (40 degrees up, 80 degrees down) display, magnesium alloy body, lots of scene mode for stills and videos. built-in flash, etc.

For some people it might seems that Panasonic put lots of features but missed some of the important ones, but if you go over the features you can see that the GX7 is an excellent camera overall. Let’s not forget the amount of Micro Four Thirds lenses available for you.  This high-end mirrorless camera was favored by many camera reviewers that found it as one of the best all-around performers, some disagreed.

The GX7 will appeal to those who appreciate the GX7 design and build quality, image stabilization, wireless capabilities, tilting viewfinder and tilting rear LCD, in-body IS, 1/8000 sec shutter speed and all the wide-range of built-in software-based functions.  Yes, the GX7 doesn’t have it all, and there are cameras with better IBIS and Hybrid AF. So it although it’s not a 8+ in all categories, it does well in most of them, and it’s really an excellent camera that will satisfy the demands of many enthusiasts photographers.

Olympus OM-D E-M10

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 is the latest addition to Olympus OM-D range of Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras. It sits below the OM-D E-M1 and OM-D E-M5.  As of the time of writing, the E-M10 costs around $700 (body only), which is $100 less than the E-M5 and $550 less than the flagship mode, E-M1. If you are interested in knowing the differences between those two cameras, I recommend reading my E-M1 vs E-M5 review.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 size comparison

Olympus OM-D E-M10 size comparison versus E-M5 and E-M1

The OM-D E-M10 already won numerous awards and grabbed high score from many leading camera review’s website. Although it’s an entry-level in the OM-D series and sits below the E-M5, in some ways, it’s even more advanced then the E-M5 and the word entry-level might do it injustice as you’ll soon see.

The E-M10 drops the weather-sealing of its bigger brothers and its body is made of a combination of polycarbonate and magnesium alloy, instead of full magnesium alloy built — yet, it significantly smaller than the E-M5 and carries roughly the same advanced design and controls as the E-M5.

The E-M10 uses the same 16 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor as the E-M5 and the latest TruePic VII image processing chip as the E-M1 (the E-M5 uses TruePic VI processor).  On of the features that Olympus is very proud of is the built-in image stabilization (IBIS). All the OM-D cameras boasts this built-in sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism, however, the E-M10 one is less effective and offers only 3-axis (yaw/pitch/roll, 3.5 stops) compensation, compared to 5-axis (~4 stops) of the E-M5 and E-M1. That being said, I’m sure that you’ll find the IBIS very effective as it works with every lens you attach to the camera. If the MFT lens already got a lens-shift IS built-in, you can choose to override the default and use the lens IS instead.

Before we continue, check out this OMD EM10 3-Axis stabilization tests by Blunty YouTube user (jump to minute 2:42 for the tests)

Olympus also dropped the 1/8000 sec shutter speed and offers only 1/4000 sec max shutter speed. The cameras also lacks the AP2 accessory port, but I’m pretty sure that many photographers won’t find it as a big drawback. On the positive side, the E-M10 gains a built-in Flash, wireless connectivity 30p video recording that absent on the E-M5 camera.

The E-M10 has a 1.44 million dot digital viewfinder that allows better visibility when shooting in bright daylight, and for those who prefer composing their shots using a viewfinder instead of the rear LCD. The EVF automatically adjusts its brightness based on the ambient light surrounding the camear.  The camera also has a 3.0″ 1037K-dots tilting (80 deg. up / 50 deg. down) touchscreen display, which allows photographers, among others, to capture image with only one-touch, just tap on the screen to capture the image (same as a smartphone camera).

The E-M10 can shoot entirely in Auto mode, but the main benefits when purchasing a camera like this, is having to utilize its wide range of manual and customization options to produce more creative results.  This includes Exposure/ISO/White Balance/Flash/Art filter bracketing, built-in HDR and also bracketing for HDR process, lots of art filters and effects to apply to your images, photo story mode with various effects, timelapse movie recording, various movie functions, interval mode (1 sec – 24 hours, max 999 frames), multi-exposure shots (2 frames), in-camera RAW processing, 2x one push tele-converter, wireless shooting (need to install an app onto your mobile device), GPS geotagging (using mobile Wi-Fi connectivity) and more.

The camera can shoot at 8 frames per second in sequential shooting mode and all in all it’s fast and very responsive. The E-M10 was criticized for the somewhat mediocre video quality, not having weathersealing, the lack of an accessory port and mic input and its button layout, but overall there is not too much to complain about this camera. If you are searching for a highly capable Micro Four Thirds camera and can leave without the absent features from the E-M5, you might find yourself a real winner here, and the E-M10 should certainly be at the top of your list.

The E-M10 won several awards, including dpreview’s Gold Award,  2014 TIPA Award for Best CSC entry-level (although not that entry-level in my opinion) and many editor’s choice awards from leading camera review websites.  It is positioned at the 15th place in Amazon.com best selling Compact system camera’s list, but in my opinion, it’s relatively high price prevented it from progressing higher (position as of the time of writing, June 10th, 2014).

E-M10 vs a6000 vs GX7 Comparison

OK, now that you’ve got yourself familiar with the key features of the three cameras, let’s take a look at the differences between those three cameras. I know that it’s easy to get confused when comparing more than two cameras, so make sure that you tagged the features that important to you the most and built your buying decision from the point on, by eliminating the cameras that doesn’t have the must-have features that you are looking for in your next camera and the one that better fits your shooting style needs.

Remember, some features are less important and some you might never use. You can save yourself a great deal of money by making sure that you don’t pick the more expensive camera for the wrong reasons.. or in other words, pay for features that you won’t use in practice. Instead, put that money in a second or better lens, this will help you make the best of your skill and allow you to be more creative, productive and save you money on the way.

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Now let’s take a look at some sample videos taken with each camera..

Olympus OM-D E-M10 sample video

Panasonic Lumix GX7 sample video

Sony Alpha a6000 video sample

Conclusion

So which one should you buy, the Sony a6000, Panasonic GX7 or Olympus OM-D E-M10? — Well, first of all, the decision is not easy, but I think that if you looked closely at the comparison table above, you probably noticed the key differences. The Sony Alpha a6000 is the #1 best seller on Amazon.com under the Compact System Camera’s category, and for a good reason. It’s the cheapest among the three and comes with a wide range of attractive features, including small body, APS-C sensor with the best high ISO performance among the three (not by a large margin though), better AF system, EVF, fastest burst, Wi-Fi + NFC and best battery life among the three cameras (oh, and you can charge it using a USB cable). Yes, there is no touchscreen, no electronic level gauge and some people might find its small size inconvenient when shooting with long lenses. That being said, it’s hard to beat an offer like the Alpha 6000, and it seems that many people and reviewers agree on that.

So why purchase the GX over the a6000? — the GX7 is more expensive, but does offer better build quality, built-in image stabilization (although was criticized for its effectiveness, only 2 stops advantage), has a touchscreen with higher resolution, offers 1/8000 sec max. shutter speed, highest-resolution tiltable EVF, but doesn’t employ a hybrid AF, has less AF points of all three (AF speed is very speedy for static objects), has the highest-resolution tiltable EVF and slowest burst among three. For some people, those unique features might be worth it, but I personally don’t find the built-in IS to be important if it only offer 2-stop compensation, the tiltable EVF is nice but I can live without it, I won’t be using 1/8000 sec shutter speed — but that’s just me. I personally found the a6000 to be more attractive overall, although I might envy the Micro Four Thirds lens selection.

The OM-D E-M10 has the least impressive high ISO performance in my observation when comparing lab-test sample images, but did a great job up to ISO 1600. That being said, it does employ a built-in IS, a touchscreen, EVF, good burst speed and 24p video recording, but overall I find it less impressive than the a6000. If the Hybrid AF, 1080p24/60p movies, better low-light performance, smaller camera body, large viewfinder, very good battery life, better subject tracking performance, easy wireless connectivity — if all that matters to you, I recommend getting the Sony a6000.

There isn’t a big false in either cameras. It depends whether the GX7 or the E-M10 convinced you with their unique features. Some people opt for any Micro Four Thirds than Sony’s offering due to the better lens selection, and for some of you this might be a good reason to get either the GX7 or the E-M10. Remember, you are buying into a camera system. Some will prefer the a6000 because they have the option to upgrade to a Sony full frame in the future, others will prefer growing into the Micro Four Thirds family for its lens availability or the ability to buy a camera from a different manufacturer and still use your current MFT lenses.

If you want my opinion, I personally prefer the Sony Alpha a6000, as I found the price to be just right, loved the high ISO performance, favor the Hybrid AF system, love the small profile and don’t mind leaving with its disadvantages. You might have a completely different opinion. I just shared mine to share with you how I made my choice.

If you have any questions and still having trouble deciding which camera to buy, drop me your question in the comment section below and share your thoughts.

So which camera you decided to buy? — waiting to here your opinion in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and please don’t forget to LIKE our Facebook page to get updated with the latest articles as they are posted online. Cheers!

 



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