OMD-EM10 vs K20D – Olympus vs Pentax

My Olympus OMD-EM10 is out of action at the moment. I think the lens is broken but the camera has gone haywire because of it. I’ve gone back to using my Pentax K20D as my main carry-anywhere camera.

2017-03-06
K20D vs OMD-EM10

It’s interesting to compare the experience of using the two. I’d been using the Olympus is my carry-anywhere. If I went out specifically for a photography trip I’d take both but I’d use the Olympus more often during the day. I tended to use the Pentax when I needed to use filters, for which I don’t have the necessary adapters for the OMD.

Although neither camera is current, the comparison would still be relevant to a choice between any modern DSLR and mirrorless alternatives.

Now that I’ve been using the Pentax for a week or two as my only camera again, how do the experiences compare? I was out yesterday in the Lake District so I’m using some shots from that to illustrate.

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Langdale Pikes in quickly changing light. You need to shoot quickly to get the shot you need.

I think the comparison can be summed up in the following headings:

Size

The Pentax is much bigger and heavier. The main consequences of this are that a) I leave it at home instead of taking it out and b) if I take it out it stays in the bag. Walking up the hill yesterday in threatening weather I’d left the Pentax in my bag to keep away from the rain. The OMD would have been round my neck and in a jacket pocket, ready for action. When I got to the top of the hill there was a break in the clouds and some great views. The OMD would have been ready for action immediately but the Pentax needed to be excavated from the bag first.

This is, in fact, the main reason I bought the Olympus in the first place.

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The Band lit up by quick changing light.

Viewfinder

The Olympus has an EVF, the Pentax has an optical finder. I like the way the optical finder shows you “real life” without interpretation but otherwise the Olympus scores here. First, it is so much quicker to shoot when you can see the live histogram in the viewfinder and can adjust exposure as you compose. This is important when clouds are racing and the light changes second by second. On the Pentax I need to check exposure after taking then adjust and take again, by which time the scene might have disappeared.

The other big win for the Olympus EVF is the ability to have the scene mode reflected in what you see in the EVF. So if I choose monochrome square format, that’s what I’ll see, which really helps with composition.

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Image quality

The Olympus has the slight edge, I think. Probably down to the lenses. The sensor is smaller (micro 4/3 vs APS-C) but at least five years more recent. Overall I’d give it to the Olympus.

Handling and feel

Both fit nicely into the hand and against the face. Both are nice to use. I like the way the Pentax’ manual zoom and OVF makes it feel more like an analog mechanism instead of a computer, which helps me relate to it, but the extra facilities of the Olympus EVF make up for this.

I also particularly like the control layout of the Olympus. The front wheel can be used for exposure compensation and is in the perfect place when the camera is against your face. I also like the way that focus selection works, which is also easily accessible with the camera against your face.

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Overall

The Olympus has to win based mostly on size and weight but also on the EVF features, which I miss. If both were working I’d always pick up the Olympus before the Pentax.

Of more direct relevance, when both cameras eventually give out, will I replace with a new DSLR or a new mirrorless? I’ll probably go mirrorless and probably another Olympus.

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Live histogram helps with shots like this, that have high contrast from the snow and sky to the dark foreground,
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