A case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)
The last couple of weeks I have felt a need to buy a new camera. In reality I have no such need at all, so this text is kind of a therapeutic way to come to my senses and spend my money on more useful stuff.
I think my feeling has been fueled by all talk on gear forums lately about upgrading to full frame bodies. Since the release of the Canon 6D and Nikon D600 it seems everybody wants to get rid of their crop bodies to get that FF magic. I have of course not been any different, I feel a never ending need to buy new gear for all my hobbies.
I originally thought about buying the Canon 5D III, but after some more thinking I decided I could not justify spending so much more money compared to the Canon 6D just to get the improved AF system. I do this as a hobby and only shoot sport a couple of times a year. So, with the 5D III out of the picture I had my sight set on the 6D. After all, it’s still a FF and seems to have even better noise performance and dynamic range than the 5D III.
Then I started thinking about what I was going to use the camera for. According to reviews and reports on forums the AF don’t seem optimal for sports and other moving subjects and I would possibly loose some “reach” compared to my 50D (it really depends on the pixel density and not the “crop factor” and I haven’t actually checked the difference more carefully yet) so that left portraits, landscape and product shoots as the main purposes.
If we start with portraits, I think the biggest advantage of the Canon 6D is the better color depth. In measurements at DxOMark the 6D has 23.8 bits color depth and the OM-D has 22.8 bits. While lower I think the OM-D score still is good and almost the same as the original Canon 5D which has 22.9 bits. Even if the Canon 6D is better than the Olympus OM-D I can’t justify a purchase based on it. On a side note, my Panasonic GF3 has a value of 20.6 bits and I think this explains why I have been having some problems with transitions (gradients) in clear blue skies with that camera.
Another thing that’s always raised in regard to portraits on FF cameras is the possibility of a short depth of field (DOF). Personally I don’t understand why people get hung up on this, a razor thin DOF don’t seem to be something to strive for in portraits (or in many other cases), but for the sake of argument let’s assume it’s something I would like to have (I need to have something to motivate a purchase, right). Looking at my current lenses I don’t really have something good that could be used to generate a short DOF. I have the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 zoom and the EF 35mm f/2 prime, but on the OM-D I have the Panasonic Leica 25 mm f/1.4 which can be considered a 50 mm f/2.8 on FF in regard to focal length and DOF. The difference is that the Panasonic Leica have great sharpness even wide open and the Tamron and Canon lenses need to be stopped down to avoid some softness, even in the center of the frame. My Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L would likely be a good portrait lens on the 6D, but I could also invest in a cheap Olympus 45mm f/1.8 for the OM-D which I think would perform similarly. Or use my to Nikkor lenses (50mm f/2 and 105mm f/2.5) if I can manage manual focusing.
Looking at landscape shooting I’m sure the Canon 6D would be great, but the OM-D is no hack here either. According to DxOMark the OM-D actually has better dynamic range, 12.3 EVS compared to 12.1 EVS on the 6D. The 6D has higher resolution (5472 x 3648 compared to 4608 x 3456 for the OM-D) but for landscapes I could get around that by stitching multiple shots, as long as there is not a lot of moving things in the frame and exposure time is not too long. One argument for FF for landscapes is the better options for wide lenses, but for me this would mean having to buy more lenses since I really don’t have anything wide enough today. I don’t think the Tamron 28-75mm has the corner sharpness to compete with the Panasonic 14mm on the OM-D and the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 on the Canon 50D is sharp and of course much wider. One option would be to buy the 6D with the kit zoom EF 24-105 f/4L (and maybe some other landscape oriented lens) which means more money. If I shot more landscapes than I actually do and was prepared to tailor my lens collection for it (and spend the money doing it) this could maybe a reason to buy the 6D, but there is no need to rush out to do it.
The Canon 6D with higher resolution files would be an improvement her, but since I only do this for microstock on a very small scale (and with very little income so far) and can’t justify buying a new camera for it.
I don’t see sports as something the Canon 6D is aimed at but I still wanted to mention that I really happy with how my Canon 50D is performing together with the EF-S 15-85 and EF 70-200 f/4L. Of course it would be nice to have better noise performance when shooting mountain biking in shady conditions, but I do it so seldom I can’t justify the cost of the Canon 5D III (which would be the logical FF alternative).
So what to do?
My conclusion is that while the 6D has a better sensor than the OM-D (and of course my old Canon 50D) the question is how important this difference is to me in real life and if the cost of adding a Canon 6D (and more lenses) is worth it. To be honest I don’t think so.
Update: One thought would be to buy a Canon 6D together with an EF 85mm f/1.8. From what I understand that lens is quite sharp even wide open and would give me the possibility to blur out the background for a reasonable price. Still, to get maximum use of it for landscape means more lenses and higher cost.