I realize I run the risk of attracting the ire of the Full Frame Mafia by writing this post, but I am okay with that because in the end, I am not saying M43 is better than FF, I am merely saying it MIGHT be better for you, as it is for me.
The good news is that there are no bad cameras today. Whatever you choose, the camera will do its job as long as you do yours. But there are intangibles and personal preferences that do play a role in how successful you may be with your camera and to that end, I offer a list of things that might make M43 a better choice.
You can spend a lot less money to get the same coverage when you buy Micro Four Thirds gear. If you use telephoto lenses, the cost savings can truly be staggering. My old Canon 600mm lens cost $13k. My Olympus 300 f/4 IS Pro Lens delivers the same field of view and the same light pass through for less than $2500.
This advantage is connected to size. Since most Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses are designed to work with smaller sensors and without mirrors, they are simply smaller than their full-frame counterparts and that equates to a weight difference that gives the advantage to Micro Four Thirds.
Because there is no mirror box or mirror inside a Micro Four Thirds camera, the camera body is smaller relative to similarly capable full-frame DSLRs that do use mirrors. The lenses are smaller because they do not need to reproduce as large an image onto the sensor.
Without question, Micro Four Thirds cameras have been hotbeds of technology innovation. IBIS, touch-screen LCDs, 4K photo mode, in-camera HDR and focus stacking, silent shutter and more are all technologies that either debuted on M43 cameras or were significantly advanced thanks to M43 cameras. DSLRs often copy these innovations which is good, but it would be better if the full-frame format were able to innovate as well.
5. Lens Choice
Because several manufacturers belong to the Micro Four Thirds Consortium, M43 shooters can buy one brand of camera and a totally different brand of lens. Companies like Olympus, Panasonic, Blackmagic, Sigma, Voigtländer, Sharp, Tokina, Photron, Sis Vistek, KPI, Astro, Kodak, Tamron, DJI, Flovel, Birger, NAC, YI, Q Technology, DZO and SLR Magic make Micro Four Thirds cameras or lenses. M43 shooters can mix and match these products to create an astonishing array of choices.
6. Crop Factor
While some people consider this a deficit because they don’t understand how depth-of-field as it relates to bokeh really works, I consider the crop factor on M43 cameras to be a great benefit. I get the same field-of-view as a FF 600mm lens using a smaller, lighter, less expensive 300mm lens from Olympus. And while the pixel peepers will focus on the loss of depth-of-field you experience on a M43 camera/lens combo, I consider that an advantage. If I am photographing eagles for instance, I need to stop down on a FF camera because the wing spread is so large that shooting wide open will cause parts of the image to be out of focus. On a M43 camera I can shoot wide open, but because of the larger DOF, get the whole image sharp. (By the way – if you shoot with an f/4 lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera and a Full Frame camera, the same amount of light passes through to the camera. In other words, sensor size has no impact on light pass through. As far as your exposure is concerned, f/4 is f/4 regardless. Don’t let the Internet trolls tell you different.)
This isn’t EVERY single thing I can think of that makes Micro Four Thirds the best camera format choice for me. And there are other reasons to consider the format for many. But this list is a good starting point. Maybe M43 isn’t right for you. Maybe you really do need a full-frame camera. If so, that is what you should buy. But for me and many like me, M43 is the best choice. It’s really the only choice. I cannot for the life of me imagine going back to the big, expensive, heavy, obtrusive full frame DSLR and lens combos that I spent decades using. I am never going back. But your mileage may vary.
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