Some thoughts about Micro 4/3, plus an intriguing experiment

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by Karim Ghantous, Feb 28, 2020.

  1. I’ve been playing around with the E-M5 II for a while. Here are some unorganised thoughts about the camera and the system in general.

    Firstly, the lenses aren’t always smaller. I’ve dealt with this issue in the past. If you want to see a more formal analysis, have a look at this blog post I wrote not too long ago:

    Link: Is Micro 4/3 really smaller?

    The narrower the AOV you want, the more sense that Micro 4/3 makes. I like the Sony Alpha system, but the FE bodies, with their 36mm sensors, require huge lenses for tele- and super-telephoto shooting. The Sony bodies are actually about the same size as their Olympus competitors, and in a few configurations actually out-compete the Olympus for size and weight.

    But a 600mm lens on an FE body is f—ing huge. Do you really want to go back to - or stay with - these kinds of lenses? No way. Give me an E-M1 and a 300/4 instead; or a G9 with the Leica 200/2.8.

    I have no issue using the system with wide angle lenses, but a Leica M body with its relatively small and compact wide angle lenses, will compete on size and win on quality every single time. Quite frankly I’m not aware of any system that competes with the M in this regard.

    APS-C is the sweet spot - at least on paper. I can’t deny it. On paper I ought to be shooting with APS-C cameras. But I just like Micro 4/3. I’m happy to change to Fuji, for example, but you won’t get the compact super-telephoto lenses, or the other features that come with the system. Think of the increased DOF, the smaller telephotos, the IBIS, etc.

    But Micro 4/3 has a trick up its sleeve. The lenses all seem to cover the slightly larger sensor of the GH5s. If either Panasonic or Olympus wants to, they can offer a high end pro oriented camera with a higher pixel count and a larger sensor.

    For example, the standard frame size is 17.3mm x 13mm. The 20Mpx sensors offer a 5184x3888 pixel count. The GH5s has a 19.2mm x 13mm sensor. If you keep the photosite density the same, the wider sensor offers a 5753x3888 pixel count, which comes to 22Mpx. However, if you increase the height as well as the width, you will get a sensor that’s 19.2mm x 14.4mm in size, which comes to a pixel count of 5753x4306, or almost 25Mpx.

    The benefits are nice on paper, but there is one extra benefit not often considered. You could choose to compose in ‘classic’ mode, while the entire sensor’s data is output if you’re shooting RAW. If you make a minor compositional error, you can ‘look around’ the original composition to improve it.

    I decided to test the 9-18/4-5.6 on a Sony E camera. I bought a cheap adapter (and you should never use cheap adapters unless you simply want to explore an idea) and did a quick test. Thankfully the flange focal distance of Micro 4/3 is a little bit deeper than that of the E mount. It’s 18mm on the Sony vs 19.25 on a Micro 4/3 body (Fuji’s X mount is 17.7mm, shorter again). The results were noteworthy.

    The Olympus lens covered the sensor entirely from about 12mm onwards. At 9mm there was obvious portholing, and the extremes of the frame were not of acceptable quality. However… if you cropped in, you’d get about 10Mpx worth of resolution from a 16Mpx sensor, which isn’t that bad. But there is a problem.

    The Olympus lens is all electronic, and the aperture cannot be changed, at least not with a standard adapter. And neither can the focus. Except - and this is quite interesting - you can adjust focus if you stick with the 9mm focal length! Now, this lens is collapsible, and as you extract it to 9mm, you’re also focusing it. So the zoom barrel becomes the focusing ring. Is it worth it? Maybe not, but it proves the point that all Micro 4/3 lenses can cover a sensor approximately half way between Micro 4/3 and APS-C.

    I also bought the 12-40/2.8 Pro. Panasonic offers a 12-60/2.8-4, which of course you should be able to use as a constant f/4 if you despise sliding apertures as I do. Panasonic also offers a 12-35/2.8, while Olympus now offers a 12-40/4. All of these are very good lenses indeed.

    The E-M5 with the 12-40/2.8 is IMHO a vastly superior proposition than a Sony FE body with the 28-70/3.5-5.6 kit lens. The two kits are about the same size, with the advantage going to Olympus. Of course you can choose an E mount body with the Zeiss 16-70/4, not the mention the Sony 16-55/2.8 which was released last year. And I’m not even going into the Fuji system here. The choice is yours, and there are lots of choices to go around.

    And as far as APS-C DSLRs go, forget it. Micro 4/3 wins hands-down as far as size is concerned. I’d also say it wins overall. But you knew I’d say that. I think you have to be in denial to choose any DSLR for any reason these days. This isn’t 2014 - it’s 2020 and the future is right here.

    I love how modern cameras are making post processing more and more redundant. Focus stacking is a great feature, although somewhat limiting. The new E-M1 III allows you to shoot 16 frames with focus stacking, which is double what you can do with the E-M5 II. However, focus bracketing, which lets you shoot up to 999 frames, is very flexible and can give you almost infinite DOF depending on how long your lens is. Either way, shoot RAW for insurance.

    High res mode lets you shoot 40Mpx images of static subjects. This mode does capture more detail, and it seems to be the case with almost all lenses. It’s limiting, but you have to accept the compromises that come with your sensor size of choice.

    Sadly, you cannot combine high res with other modes like focus stacking, or HDR bracketing. Perhaps in the future you will be able to do this. But, perhaps because high res mode captures more detail, and therefore more colour, the file is a little more flexible in terms of shadow detail.

    Thanks to IBIS, you can do hand-held HDR - and even focus stacking apparently. With the newer E-M1 bodies you can even do hand-held high res shots.

    Overall I am glad that I bought this camera. Will I be tempted back to APS-C? Sure, why not? With cameras like the X-T4 and A6600, and even the CL or TL2, that format has a definite future. Some say Micro 4/3 does not have a future, but I beg to differ.
  2. I think you've forgotten to factor in the heavy tripod that's essential for any serious super-telephoto work. That's going to outweigh and out-size almost any camera body and lens.

    Magnification is magnification, whether it's a 600mm lens on the 135 format, or a 300mm lens on something half as big. Plus you'll still have the same volume of turbulent, dust and pollution-filled air between lens and subject.
    invisibleflash likes this.
  3. A 300 mm lens (600 equivalent) for an M43 camera costs about $1500, compared to $10K+ for a FF super-telephoto. You can buy a lot of tripod for the difference.

    You can do focus stacking manually, with or without a special camera mode or auto focus. Been there, done that. You could also compose and stack high resolution (e.g., pixel shifting) shots. In-camera processing is no substitute for Photoshop and Lightroom. The only time I shot directly to JPEG was for about a week after my first DSLR - in 2003.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2020
  4. Sure, but why add to that weight? In any case, sports shooters use monopods. Or, I should say, if I were a sports shooter I'd be using a monopod.

    This is true. But I'd prefer it to be automated if possible.

    It most certainly is, my friend! That's the whole point of it. JPEGs aren't as good as RAW files, for sure, but with tone curves you're doing okay. Hopefully we'll get a new file format that's better than JPEG - we should have had this years and years ago.

    I do have and occasionally use a RAW converter, but one day I won't have to load RAW files into it if I need to perform some tweaks.
  5. We did. Many early digital cameras offered TIFF as a file option. Unfortunately those early processors took many seconds to store a TIFF file, and so the feature was rarely used.

    Nothing wrong with RAW. And what would be the point of some 'better' file format? To get a higher bit-depth for PP? PP takes time, usually a lot more time than it takes any computer to do a RAW conversion. Either you want to further process a shot, or you're happy with the out-of-camera result. So there's no real advantage to having a third option between JPEG and RAW.
    Ludmilla likes this.
  6. Why is APS-C a "sweet spot". What does this mean? Because it is in between FF and m43? Is being in the middle always a "sweet spot". Not too much nor too little?
    Ludmilla likes this.
  7. AJG


    For me APS-C is a sweet spot because I get the level of quality that I need without spending the extra for full frame camera bodies and lenses. If I were starting now I probably would go with a full frame camera since the prices of these have come down substantially. m43 never interested me because my existing lens collection (Pentax K mount) would only fit with adapters that would compromise function, and because I would have had to replace a lot of wide angle capability. I also appreciate the somewhat smaller size and weight of APS-C over full frame.
  8. I'm no computer geek but aren't Apple & Canon using something like that now? Why not hope for a 10bit format when most monitors can display such? JPEG seems getting long in the tooth.

    I fail to see a serious MFT edge at the supertele end. Why buy MFT instead of cropping the few oddball "wildlife for the Internet" shots from a 300mm on FF or APS? If body size is "a wash" by now, what would be drawbacks? Less buffer with more data junk? - How crucial is that really for you? Pixeldensity shouldn't be relevant, when we utilize high(er) resolution allround bodies with somewhat affordable glass.
    Only if you have nothing, besides money, to do photography with.
  9. Let's take JPEG 2000. It has a more modern codec, it supports 16 bits per channel, and is more efficient than JPEG. Okay, but so what? Here's the deal: if I could choose JP2K as a file format, I wouldn't need to shoot RAW as insurance. For some jobs I may very well do so, but most of the time I won't need to or want to.

    Example: JPEG2000 vs JPEG (vs TIFF)

    You could do exactly that with an A7R IV. And not merely for the Internet, either. Your output would be something like 4567x3425, or almost 16Mpx. With an A9, not so much. Your output would be something like 2883x2162, or a little over 6Mpx. More than enough for the Web, but not quite what publishers would expect today.

    Having said that, the D2H was the king of sports cameras back in the day, and it only had 4Mpx output. Both of the Sony cameras are terrific choices, BTW. I would pick the E-M1, if I had to choose one right now.
  10. Can they?
    Most budget monitors and LCD televisions don't even have a full 8 bit display, with 6 bit seeming to be the norm. I doubt that your average internet surfer spends an extra $300+ to get a high bit-depth display.

    We already have several flavours of JPEG, but the sRGB/8 bit one seems to be used by default. And if the great majority of people think it's good enough, there's little impetus for change.

    We have 8 bit compressed JPEG, which is deemed 'good enough' by most users, and 12 to 16 bit RAW for the more discerning. Why muddy the waters with Mister Inbetween? (Don't mess with him!).
  11. Fine & probably true. But what about us? Why shouldn't I spend x<400€ on a 4K Samsung, to enjoy my images? Are there cheaper but bearable 8 bit 4K screens at all?
  12. I agree 100%. I'm somewhat stuck, though happily, with 20 and 30 MP Samsungs and their excellent zooms and TINY primes ... I commonly use them with Pentax K primes, especially Pentax K 50/1.4, 50/2.8 Macro and 85/2 (lovely bokeh with tiny, affordable lenses). If I do grow up and want full frame digital, those K lenses will be as good as Pentax lenses designed for full frame. Same logic would apply to lesser cameras, such as Canikon and Oly.
  13. When i spent a lot of money for my equipment if they don't weigh a lot I feel cheated.
    Robin Smith likes this.
  14. Some cultures feel that way about spouses.
    Nick D., Ludmilla and Robin Smith like this.
  15. Not me because I do not pay for a spouse.
    Robin Smith likes this.
  16. I fail to see a serious MFT edge at the supertele end. Why buy MFT instead of cropping the few oddball "wildlife for the Internet" shots from a 300mm on FF or APS? If body size is "a wash" by now, what would be drawbacks?

    I can think of a couple of good reasons:

    300 mm f2.8 Sony G $7,498.00 (2340 g) vs 200mm f2.8 MFT Leica Elmarit Panasonic $2,997.99 (1245 g), Olympus 300mm f4
    $2,749.00 (1475 g).

    You could add a 2X TC to the Sony to get to 600mm for another $548, or you could add the 2X Olympus TC to the 40-150 f2.8 Oly ($1349, 750 g) for $379. The size/price difference is real.
  17. It is funny, I was watching YouTube video yesterday about watches. Idea was something like, should I buy Omega now, because I have money for it, or should I save a bit longer and buy Rolex which I really want. That's what like all this musing looks like to me, if you serious about photography and most have been around for some time, you probably already figured out, that there's no one size fit all solutions here. Nobody cares what camera and lens photographer used to get picture, it is picture itself what people looking at.
    I have seen slightly unsharp picture of squirrel posted few day ago, taken with Sony A9 and 600 mm lens with 1.4 converter , I can get the same quality picture here in Toronto with cellphone and few peanuts for my model:)
    Ken Katz likes this.
  18. Go with the Omega.
  19. That's a very good point, and in fact I think Sanford's answer is one of two correct ones: buy the Omega if you prefer it, or buy the Rolex if you prefer that. I'm not sure that the Rolex, as lovely as it is, should be the default choice.

    I don't know a great deal about wristwatches but I do like them, and I have my own tastes. I don't like brands because others do, or because I ought to like them. Shall we discuss motor cars now? :p
    Sanford likes this.
  20. Congratulations:)

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