Winning the Format Wars

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NCV
NCV Veteran Member • Posts: 8,208
Winning the Format Wars
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For those “I am staying” and “I am going” threads there is a better solution perhaps. This is also aimed squarely at the “Format Ayatollahs”, all of them.

Five or so years ago my photography was different to what I am doing now. I had a D300 and a quite a few lenses. I had been using Nikon since the early eighties. As well as travel I was doing a lot of hiking in the Apennine mountains. The discovery of the EM5 changed my photography radically. I could carry more lenses comfortably in the mountains and IBIS was brilliant for travel especially when visiting dark monuments. I needed no other format for my photography, the match was almost perfect.

Of late I have decided to add FF to my toolbox and I have been evaluating the pros and cons. I thought a few of my random findings might be interesting.

Let us get the image quality question out of the way first. A well exposed M43 image at base ISO is about the equivalent of a 120-film image, the old default professional format. So, nobody can say M43 images lack quality. They are fine for professional use. The organisers of an architecture exhibition in Vienna made a big poster out of one of my “dark Italian monument” pictures at 1600. They sent me a poster and it was surprisingly perfect.

But I have noticed my FF images have just a little extra, not much but it is evident. In post I can bring far more detail out of the shadows. As I have said before, my Nikon images have a creamy look to them compared to the “grittier” M43 image. We are in fact talking about noise.

Lenses, one of my favourite images (which won a challenge here) was taken on a GX1 with a 100-300 consumer grade zoom. Yes, you do not need the costlier “Pro Grade” lenses to take successful photographs. The 100-300 is smaller and lighter than my 24-120 FF lens. The picture in question was taken at the end of a long walk. I cannot imagine I would have carted a 600FF that far with the necessary monopod. So, a smaller format M43 camera got me an image I would not have got with FF.

Perspective Control lenses do not exist in M43, you have to go FF if you use these lenses. I started to do a lot more architecture and a proper PC lens came my way cheaply. Despite what everybody says, from my experience a PC lens gives results that are much more natural than correction in post. So here FF gets me successful pictures I cannot do in M43.

Hiking photography is declining as an interest I have moved to perhaps a more reflective sort of photography, I am the moment working on a historical/architectural series, I have also grown more interested in abstraction with colour, light and shadow. The subtler results FF gives me, seem better matched to the subject matter at times.

Work takes me to various historic Italian cities. I arrange meetings for the morning and then I take the afternoon off. I have visited Brescia, Bergamo and Bologna of late. Without hesitation M43 for these various cities was the choice. I take my three zooms that give me 7mm to 100mm and I am more than pleased with the results. IBIS is a must for this sort of photography. Also I am not knackered at the end ot the day carting camera gear around.

I could go on and on. But having two systems is much better than one. FF DSLR’s are getting very cheap SH right now and for the cost of a “Pro Grade” lens a D610 and a 24-120 are yours.

FF is definitely better at some things and in some areas than M43, but then I have done things with my M43 stuff that I could not do with FF. On one occasion IBIS in M43 would have got me better images than I got when I used FF.

But remember it is the skill of the photographer that makes the biggest difference irrespective of format.

100-300

Nice light counts a lot. M43

28PC

24-120 FF

 NCV's gear list:NCV's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D700 Olympus OM-D E-M5
Nikon D300 Nikon D610 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
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