Debunking the Myths and Stopping the Hate on Micro Four Thirds

This post isn’t designed to spew hate on Micro Four Thirds camera systems, but instead it is to clarify a few myths and ideas around why people just don’t like the system. For some, it’s simply because the sensor isn’t a full frame option at all. There are many photographers out there that hate Micro Four Thirds and APS-C sensor cameras because of all this, and it even seems to translate into marketing at some points. It’s something that is said over and over again. It’s not uncommon to hear “Too bad it’s Micro Four Thirds.” Even further, I’ve even tried to convince professional journalists that Micro Four Thirds is more capable than they believe–to which I’ve actually succeeded.

So with that said, my intention here is very personal: to make you realize that there are billboards in NYC everywhere with the marketing terms “Shot in iPhone.” And if the iPhone can produce a billboard, how can a Micro Four Thirds sensor not? Indeed, it actually can.

More Depth of Field When Wide Open

Olympus Pen F and Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

Olympus Pen F and Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

Lots of photographers really love the look of bokeh in a scene. Let’s be honest–it’s a wonderful way of looking at a scene and seeing a subject in focus but the rest of it in a beautiful blur all around. The supposed “problem” is that at f1.2 or f0.95, you don’t get as much out of focus as you would on a full frame camera.

Yes, that’s true, but it’s also a very useful advantage.

I own the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 lens. I’ve owned it for years and any time that I test a Micro Four Thirds camera this lens mostly lives on my camera. In fact the image here was shot wide open. It’s around the same depth of field as f2 on a full frame sensor. Quite a bit is in focus but also quite a bit is out of focus in the scene.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So what am I talking about here? It’s the depth of field effect. There is a 2x crop factor, and so the aperture also doubles. An f2 lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera will render f4 on a full frame camera. What that means though is that you never need to stop down.

Never Need to Stop Lenses Down, Great Colors

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Because of the smaller sensor, you generally never need to stop your lens down to get a subject in focus with ease. On full frame cameras, f1.4 can sometimes be tough to work with and get a subject sharp. But that doesn’t happen in Micro Four Thirds. It generally means that you have less to worry about. Getting an eye and a whole face sharply in focus is very simple with Micro Four Thirds.

Want more bokeh in the scene, get closer or get a longer lens. Sure, with the 25mm f1.8 you’re getting a lens that still acts like a 25mm lens, but the lens is also only using the center of the imaging circle. It’s still able to get quite a bit of bokeh in the scene overall.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm f1.8 first impressions portrait samples (7 of 9)ISO 2501-1000 sec at f - 1.8

Now here’s a comparable photo from the Sony 50mm f1.8 on a full frame Sony a7 series camera. Can you tell a major difference when looking at the image and the scene as a whole?

Can’t Beat the Sharpness

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Micro Four Thirds lenses are also incredibly sharp at any given aperture. f1.8 is the equivalent of f3.6 in full frame, so you’ll get more in focus and a sharper image in general. The lenses are typically overly engineered and able to deliver some incredible quality overall.

The secret to any lens having better sharpness sometimes has to do with off-camera lighting. So in theory, a camera with a Four Thirds sensor and an off-camera flash can completely outdo a camera without one.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 review photos Natalie's portraits (3 of 4)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.5

Here’s the same model with a Sony 35mm f1.4 lens. Neither image is bad, but the image above where she is wearing a black top is done with Micro Four Thirds and the same Voigtlander lens that I spoke about earlier.

Fastest Autofocus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses have the fastest focusing in the industry. Part of this has to do with the sensor size and how some of their lenses are designed to really move just a single focusing element. For street photography, this is absolutely the most perfect thing that you could possible want.

Retro Ergonomics and Solid Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus Pen F product images (8 of 9)ISO 4001-160 sec

Both Fujifilm and Olympus have some of the best ergonomics out there of any company. Their cameras simply feel good in the hands and when coupled with great, small, high quality lenses, you can’t beat the autofocus and you’ll be more than happy with the image quality you can get.

Full Frame Sensors are so Pathetically Small Compared to Medium Format Film

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The whole full frame debate? Sure, you get better high ISO output and some better RAW file versatility (marginally unless you’re going for the highest end cameras) but Micro Four Thirds can also produce great high ISO output comparatively or even embrace the look of the grain.

Shot with Kodak Portra 120. Outdoors during daylight

Shot with Kodak Portra 120. Outdoors during daylight

And finally, whenever you sit there all happy about your full frame cameras, just remember what film can do even at the 645 format.