Instead of a digital SLR camera, try this Olympus model

Q. We are in the market for a midrange digital SLR camera and need your advice on what model we should consider. We need something easy to use that takes very sharp pictures. We travel a great deal, love to take pictures and are planning a trip to Tanzania next year. On this trip, we expect to take some long-distance shots. We are leaning toward Nikon or Canon, just because all the cameras we see on our travels are Nikons or Canons. Our budget is about $2,000.


A. Nikon and Canon completely rule at the high end and if I were a professional shooting sports or weddings, I would probably go and buy a couple of top-of-the-line Canon or Nikon bodies with a set of fast pro zoom lenses to match. Despite the “big two” dominating at the high end, I have always thought in the middle and lower price ranges you can get better quality elsewhere. I prefer Pentax and Olympus here.

I am confident the best camera for you is not even a digital SLR, but a new interchangeable lens Micro Four-Thirds camera from Olympus, the OM-D E-M5. It looks and performs like an SLR, but has a built-in electronic viewfinder.

For years, I have recommended the Olympus Micro Four-Thirds cameras because the cameras and lenses are compact and light, they produce amazing jpg pictures right from the camera with no tweaking necessary, the bodies have image stabilization, and even the inexpensive kit lenses are very sharp. In the past, the downside to Micro Four-Thirds has been the sensor is somewhat smaller than the APS-C size sensor in most Canons and Nikons, which gave the “big two” an edge in low light. The OM-D E-M5 has a new 16-megapixel sensor that gives up nothing to them and combined with the sharp lenses and incredible jpg processing, you have a compact system with world-class image quality that puts more expensive cameras to shame.

You can see for yourself on the comparison widget. Go to to see the comparison tool for the OM-D E-M5. Select “Canon EOS 7D” in one of the drop-down boxes, and “Nikon D7000” in one of the others. You will see that the Olympus image quality is dramatically superior to either of the much more expensive cameras from Canon or Nikon. The OM-D EM-5 records HD video as well and if you put the memory card in your Blu-ray player, it most likely will play, as most players now support AVCHD video from a memory card.

The OM-D with 14-42mm lens is $1,099. The $269 40-150mm lens is a good choice for long distance shots. For under $1,400 you get a comprehensive outfit that is small and light with cutting-edge features and image quality. If you want some extreme magnifying power, you can get the 75-300mm lens for $899 and still be at $2,000.

The OM-D EM-5 is the toast of the photographic world right now, playing to some of the biggest rave reviews I have seen in years. The camera is backordered for months, but with your trip a year away you have time to order one. It will be worth the wait. I am getting one myself once I decide on black or silver! See it at

Contact Don Lindich at and use the “submit question” link on that site.

2012, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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