One Photo That Busts Three Myths

Northern Cardinal Photo by Scott Bourne

One Photo That Busts Three Myths

The featured photo for this post is a simple picture of a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I made in South Texas, last month. I used an Olympus 300 f/4 IS Pro Lens on an Olympus OM-D E-M1 X camera body, mounted to a Robus RC-5570 Tripod with Uniqball UBH 45XC Ball Head with X-Cross Clamp. Triggered with an Olympus RM-CB2 Release Cable.

Since I shot this with a Micro Four Thirds camera and the photo came out exactly how I hoped it would, I want to share it with the intent of helping those who use M43 cameras rest easier. I want to bust three myths about M43, right in the mouth.

Northern Cardinal Photo by Scott Bourne

Myth 1: You need a giant sensor to resolve detail.

This shot is mostly straight out of camera except for very minor noise reduction I run on all my images and a very basic levels correction (also very minor) combined with a crop. There’s tons of detail here. TONS! You can count the feathers around the bird’s eye.

Myth 2: You need a giant sensor to make a “big” print.

I cropped this 50% and still have nearly a 50MB file to print. I can easily make a 30″ canvas of this shot (and I will.) Most people don’t print their pictures so it’s usually a moot point. But you can make large prints from M43 sensors. Even if you heavily crop the image.

Myth 3: You can’t get a clean background (or a creamy bokeh) from a M43 sensor.

This myth is based on the fact that M43 sensors have a crop factor that applies to depth-of-field (not exposure.) So this image, made at f/4, would be more like f/8 on a full-frame camera. So what? Seems like a super clean background to me. Those who say you can’t get a creamy bokeh from a M43 sensor usually don’t understand depth-of-field. Aperture is only one factor that influences the way the background looks in an image. Subject to background distance, focal length and camera to subject distance also influence the way the background looks. And as this image proves, you can have a clean background, even at f/4 (FF equal f/8.)


Some of the most iconic images of all time (images that will probably still be iconic 200 years from now) were made with cameras and lenses that most people would consider inferior by today’s standards. Micro Four Thirds gear is more than sufficient for 99% of the people reading this. If you want to use smaller cameras, with smaller lenses, don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

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7 Responses

  1. Thanks for the post. I’m wondering how the file size was still large after cropping. Did you use the high resolution mode?

  2. Scott I have really been enjoying your posts. Very practical information. I was wondering if you could do a post on your processing workflow especially dealing with noise using higher ISO and still maintaining the detail in feathers.

      1. I have the EM 1 MKii with the Oly 300mm. I seem to get more noise in my photos with ISO 800 or above especially with any cropping.

      2. There’s digital noise in all cameras at any ISO – whether or not it’s acceptable noise is in the eye of the beholder. But my first recommendation is that you look at your exposures. AT ISO 800, if you see too much noise, then you are probably underexposing your images. You should expose to the right, meaning adjust your exposure so that it may seem washed out in the viewfinder, but then (assuming you shoot in RAW) you can bring it back in post. As long as you don’t clip – meaning you overexpose, you should see better results.

  3. Excellent post, Scott. I shoot with both m43 and APS-C. Interesting the snobbery online when displaying images on “photo” forums. Those shot with non-m43 get much more favorable comments than others. Yet, when displayed on nature forums, the quality of the images is what matters most.

    I especially like my Olympus E-M1 Mark II for the truly silent shutter when in close proximity to my subjects. I have not yet been able to raise thee funds for the 300mm, f/4 (use the Panasonic 100-400). Someday.

    Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  4. Scott, thanks for your continued encouragement! I’ve used the Olympus system for a number of years and am always blown away by the image quality and sharpness too. I was up at Magee Marsh on Lake Erie this past week for birding week and there were certainly a lot of photographers lugging around huge lenses and massive tripods and fighting through the crowd. Me, on the other hand, just slid quietly through and grabbed equally as many good shots handholding my Olympus with 300mm F4 & 1.4TC.

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