Does m43 really have a telephoto "advantage" over APS-C?

Started Apr 21, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Bart Hickman
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Does m43 really have a telephoto "advantage" over APS-C?
Apr 21, 2012

I'm thinking out loud here--wondering what others might think on the topic.

I notice the latest generation of APS-C sensors has roughly the same physical resolution (pixel density) as the latest generation of m43 sensors. So, theoretically, you don't need a longer telephoto lens to get the same telephoto reach.

The other half of this are the lenses. But it seems that for the center area (which is what you use if you crop), many APS-C lenses are also easily sharp enough to support this increased sensor resolution. So even in practice, the APS-C sensor doesn't need a longer lens than an equivalent generation m43 sensor.

To make things worse (for m43), the APS-C still has the wide angle and larger DR/aperture advantage for all of the non-cropped focal lengths.

Example: Nikon 16-85 F/3.5-5.6 on a Nikon D3200. If I just do a straight translation of this to m43, the equivalent m43 lens would be 12-64mm F/2.6-4.2. It so happens there's an Oly lens (more expensive) with roughly these specs. But the D3200 can crop down to an m43 sensor size for a f/l of about 85mm (in m43 terms).

On the face of it, this seems to give a significant value advantage to the soon-to-be-anounced batch of APS-C cameras (I assume they'll all have at least 24Mpixels--maybe more.) For a fairly modest outlay for an APS-C kit, you can get performance that can only barely be approached by a very expensive m43 kit.

The m43 still has advantages--it's still smaller (although this advantage is eroded thanks to the APS-C pixel density). Also, I think on balance, the m43 lenses are a little sharper so the cropping argument I gave is slightly weakened, but not by much.

But m43 seems (ironically) to be at a significant disadvantage for cost at a particular performance level (assuming we're not talking about entry levels of performance.) And in fact, for the basic example I gave, this difference is quite significant. Now if you are talking about entry-level performance, the m43 system obviously wins on cost and bulk because you can go to lower performance levels than are available on APS-C.

What do all of you think about this? Punch holes in my argument.

I'm aware of the auto-focus weaknesses and strengths of the m43 cameras, but that's another topic.

FWIW, I'm considering my next system. Olympus, Nikon, and Canon are all interesting to me at the moment (Panasonic, tragically, has no wireless flash control so I'm not considering those bodies.)

Bart
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