Olympus E-M5 v. Sony NEX-6: It's all about the feel

I own both of these cameras.  And I like them both.  Very much.

But I found it interesting the other day to find that I pick up the Sony more than I do the Olympus.  I was at first surprised by this, but it was proven by filtering and sorting my Lightroom library of images by camera and date.

This is what I found:

During the time period that I have owned both cameras, I have used the NEX-6 more often and by a large margin: I have 1,200 keepers from the NEX-6 and 400 from the E-M5. This is since March, when I purchased the NEX-6.  Assuming my "keeper rate" is the same for both cameras, I am using the NEX three times as often.

What's up with that?

On paper, the Olympus (IMO) has a much higher specification.  There are just so many things I like about its feature set. (That will be the subject of another post.)  The list is much longer than the list of features I like on the NEX-6. (That, too, will be the subject of another post.)

Further confusing me is that I have a ton of lenses (well, 8) for the Olympus, and only one lens for the NEX-6.  I have four reg43 lenses that are quite usable on the E-M5 with an adapter ring.  I also own one zoom and three primes designed for m43.  For the NEX-6 I only have the 16-50mm kit lens.  

So, with the Olympus seeming to be a better camera (and of course your mileage may vary) and with more lenses available for it in my kit, why am I picking up the NEX-6 more often?

Well, I now realize the answer is quite simple:  The NEX-6 feels better in my hands.  In other words, it is all about ergonomics and haptics.  (I need to admit that only after adding an accessory grip did the NEX-6 feel so good in the hand... see image below.)

The Buchanan L-plate and grip has been added to the Sony.
The RRS (Really Right Stuff) L-plate and grip has been added to the Olympus

Note that even with the added RRS grip on the Olympus (bottom camera),
the Sony grip is much more substantial.

What about image quality? I think we've come to the point with cameras where they are all good. Both of these cameras create excellent pictures.

So what is it that feels so good about the Sony NEX-6?  Here are my answers to that question:

  • The Jim Buchanan L-plate and grip extension.  This makes all the difference in the world to me. Without it, the NEX feels good.  With it, the NEX feels great.  This is the best camera accessory I have ever bought.  Key to its usefulness to me is that I can now grip the camera with all  four fingers (not just three).  The L-bracket makes it easy to pop the camera either vertically or horizontally into an Arca-Swiss compatible tripod.
  • Even without the Buchanan accessory, the Sony grip has much more surface area than the Olympus, even when the Olympus has its optional horizontal grip installed or the Really Right Stuff grip installed.  I can hold the NEX-6 much more confidentially.
  • The NEX buttons work better for me.  They are not mushy like the Olympus and there is more real estate to the right of the display for the buttons and right thumb.
  • The NEX has a rangefinder style EVF.  Since I view with my right eye, this means no more squishing the LCD with my greasy nose (as what happens with a center mounted EVF like on the E-M5 or any dSLR.)
For my right thumb the greater real estate on the right side of the back
of the Sony (shown on left) is far better ergonomically.
Example:  The 4-way controller on the Olympus requires me to
press with the tip of my thumb. Otherwise, I hit two buttons at once.

I think a lot of mix for me going forward will be determined by the upcoming high quality zooms rumored to be arriving this fall from Sony and Olympus. My preference would be a 12-60 (Olympus) and a 16-80 (Sony), both with an F2.8-F4 maximum aperture.  That would be the full frame equivalent of 24mm to 120mm.  For me, such a lens would be so useful that it would rarely leave the camera.

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