FF + mFT: A 5 Year Summary

Started Oct 19, 2017 | Discussions thread
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MEDISN Contributing Member • Posts: 556
FF + mFT: A 5 Year Summary

I’m a hobbyist going on 30 years in photography (the last 10 seriously).  In 2012, I purchased the new Canon 5DmkIII as a workhorse/portrait/low-light camera, in addition to the new OM-D E-M5 for travel/family/vacation/fun, and to backup the Canon with different focal lengths while shooting in good light. That was the plan anyway.

After 5-years using both camera systems, I mined my Lightroom statistics/keywords in anticipation of upgrading either or both systems. My primary interest was determining how I was using each camera. If you are a Lightroom user, this is a really fun way to look at how you shoot: https://www.lightroomdashboard.com

This is in no way scientific, simply observations. Some I expected to find, some surprised me.

Lightroom statistics and keyword summaries from 2012 - 2017

Overall the E-M5 saw more use – a direct result of being carried more often.  Keeper rate was similar for both cameras.  Keeper Rate was number of photos retained in Lightroom catalog divided by total shutter actuations.  I rate each photo, 1 being junk (usually deleted), 2 usable but flawed, 3 average, 4 great, 5 excellent.  Over the 5-year period, slightly more 4- and 5-star photos for the E-M5 but not a significant difference in my mind.


Clearly, I favored FF for portrait use (one of the reasons I purchased).  In fact, I was surprised to see almost 30% of the portraits in my catalog came from the Olympus.  If we factor in geography (map module), most of the Olympus portraits originated some distance from home, whereas Canon portraits were within a 10-mile radius of where I live.  More often than not "kids" keyword appeared in E-M5 portraits.


This one surprised me – I expected to do more landscape work with the Canon.  After becoming familiar with both cameras, I saw little practical difference between images and dynamic range between the two in good lighting. The FF certainly more forgiving for crops and low light work but held back for being less portable.  Toward the end of the 5-year period, close to 85% of landscape shots were coming from the E-M5.  Easy to get good results from a camera that traveled well.  To be clear, I wouldn’t consider either of these cameras to be landscape powerhouses despite them suiting my needs.


With a young and growing family, this is one of my most common types of shooting by volume.  This is pumpkin patch, zoo, trimming the tree, backyard play, birthday party’s kind of photography.  The fun stuff!  The stuff most people shoot with their cell phones.  The mFT had three clear advantages in this category:  (1) It’s not at all intimidating, especially to kids.  (2) Face-Eye priority autofocus.  (3) I could stick it my pocket and forget about it.  As much as I love shooting the 5DIII + 70-200, it’s a lot to point at a kid.  My kids are used to it, but in mixed company, the 5DIII attracts so much attention.  I’m there to have a good time and capture a few memories not put on a photo shoot (as my wife likes to remind me).  While the Canon does face-priority AF in LiveView mode, I prefer keeping my eye in the viewfinder, especially outdoors – a big plus for the OM-D.


My second most common type of shooting.  I travel for work and leisure so portability is key.  I have a flat case not much larger than my Bose Quiet Comfort headphone case that fits the EM-5 and two lenses.  It holds a permanent place in my messenger bag making impromptu photo walks possible wherever I travel. This is the reason I was drawn to mFT and it shows in this category.  The 6% from the Canon are almost exclusively in my hometown.  My 5DIII has only been to three states not named North Carolina.


This is one of the fun things you learn about yourself with the Lightroom dashboard link I posted above.  I am not a low light shooter.  The vast majority of my work lives at base ISO. 90% of my E-M5 use came at ISO 400 or less and my 5DIII use at ISO 1600 or less.  I have no problem shooting 3200 on the Olympus which is my ceiling in AutoISO. Most of the time it just isn’t necessary. Moving forward, I don’t think high-ISO performance will be included in my future purchase decisions.

Final Thoughts

The best camera is indeed the one you have with you.  Both of these cameras have been solid over the course of 5-years, I have no regrets with either system.  I tend to use them…differently.  If I had to have one, it would be the mFT for practicality.  Luckily, I don’t have to choose, I can have as many cameras as my wife allows   I’m in no hurry to purchase another FF DSLR.  I have tried to embrace the A7 series but my attempts to warm to it end in disappointment.  Like others, I am waiting to see what the A7III series brings as well as mirrorless offerings from Canikon.  My EF glass isn’t going anywhere.

I'm curious to hear from other multi-system shooters.  Are your experiences similar?

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sony a7
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