DXO: m4/3 vs. FF -- we have it good!

Started Sep 4, 2019 | Discussions thread
Jeff Veteran Member • Posts: 6,257
Re: What a dreary world that would be ...

Doug Janis wrote:

Jeff wrote:

Doug Janis wrote:

Jeff wrote:

Doug Janis wrote:

Great Bustard wrote:

Henry Richardson wrote:

Henry Richardson wrote:

I have been using m4/3 since April 2012. For the types of things I mostly photograph and the way I do it the smaller size and lower weight of all the gear is very welcome. The sensors in the Olympus and Panasonic bodies are quite good and I am satisfied with them. I was just curious how the current m4/3 cameras compare to FF from not so long back. I looked at the E-M1II vs. Canon 5DII vs Sony A900. Of course, current FF is even better, but m4/3 has pretty much similar performance as fairly recent FF and in some areas better performance than just a few years ago. Amazing progress.

Many people are still making fantastic photos with the Canon 5DII and Sony A900 because they are still excellent. By the way, I chose those 2 for comparison because a few years ago I seriously considered buying them. For several years I was shooting Sony and had a bunch of lenses so thought about getting the A900. Also, for several years I was shooting Canon and had several lenses and thought about getting the 5DII. I used the E-M1II because DXO has not yet tested the G9 and E-M1X. I expect their scores would be very similar though.

Here is the link:


Those are still excellent FF cameras and millions of wonderful photos have been made with both and are still being made.

It is amazing to me that the little m4/3 sensor is as good or better than those FF sensors from not long ago.

Yes, I know camera geeks always need a new fix to get high. But for most of us it is almost like a dream having smaller, lighter gear that has small sensors that are as good or better than what FF cameras not so long ago had. I shot 35mm film for decades so I have been very happy with digital, even small sensor digital such as my 2002 5mp Minolta D7i, for many years.

Comparing a FF sensor from a few years ago to a modern m4/3 sensor that is 1/4 the size is a very interesting and valid comparison, I think.

For those who are so unhappy with the 20mp (and 16mp) sensors in current m4/3 bodies because they don't have enough megapixels for you or some other sensor measurement then why are you using m4/3? Duh! You knew all of this before you bought. FF sensors will probably always have higher specs than the 1/4 FF size m4/3 sensors. Another duh!

I am pretty thrilled to have m4/3 gear that has sensors that is as good in most ways (and better in some) than FF cameras that not so long ago I seriously thought about getting. Glad I didn't though.

...for so many in the form of the smartphone -- a trend that Canon predicts to continue for at least two more years. So, yes -- many are very happy to leave the larger formats for a smaller format that matches (and even exceeds) the IQ and capabilities of larger formats in the past. But far more are going "all the way down" to the smartphone.

And they aren't stopping at m43 for any compromise.

The major issue is that current m43 sensors aren't cutting it against similarly priced competition. They need another stop and a bit more resolution.

The real kicker though is price. They are 25% the size of the FF competition, so adding in capacity like 60fps, pro and high res, etc., is just masking the overall sensor issue. All mirrorless can or will have exactly this same features eventually if the market demands.

That means that m43 has to be lower priced than FF mirrorless, or Fuji, and that's not what we are seeing. We saw the EM1.2 come out at a way too high price, get hammered in the media for that, and Olympus were compelled to drop the price almost immediately.

For the love of all that is holy ....

Pick what works for you! If you want a nice compact system, from UWA to super-telephoto that can fit into a modest backpack, m43 has a lot to offer.

If you want the latest and best in sensor performance, go FF. There is a lot of choice out there.

There are tradeoffs involved, just as there are if you buy a sports car rather than a pickup truck, a city townhouse rather than a suburban ranch, boxer shorts rather than tighty-whities.

Choice is a good thing!

For some that choice invites serious shooting with smartphones. For others it's 100MP medium formats. There's no right or wrong here, its just a matter of what works for you.

Besides, in the last year, I've had photos appear in magazines in newspapers that were taken with both m43 and a few with smartphones. The editors and art department didn't blink an eye. Seems to me these arguments about this sensor or that sensor are increasingly meaningless.

Except that FF mirrorless are putting out systems with lenses that:

1. Are the same body and lens form factor as m43, especially for 80mm down.

2. Are incorporating the same computational photography techniques and stabilization.

3. Are doing so at prices that are in the same range as m43.

This leaves the ONLY m43 advantage being long glass. And at that we haven't seen the full potential of FF mirrorless.

The "myth" that is receding is that m43 offers a more "compact" package. That's pretty much disappeared outside of long glass.

The "myth" of better tech for m43 like IBIS is also gone as FF mirrorless catches up.

There "myth" that m43 is more affordable is disappearing fast, in large part because both Olympus and Panasonic are over-pricing their sensor.

What is not a "myth" is that the m43 sensor is 25% the size of FF, so per unit of IQ, delivers less results, comprehenisively.

That's like saying the "only" advantage of a pickup is that it carry a large load and tow a boat trailer. Well, that's a pretty big difference!

Yes, the long glass for m43 is a lot smaller, and a lot cheaper, too. Put a 40-150/2.8, 300/4, and an MC-20 in your kit, and you've got a zoom range from 40-300 covered, and prime lens at 300 and 600. This is an amazingly functional setup. It fits in a medium backpack with room for other lenses, a second body, etc. If that were the "only" advantage, it would be enough for me.

The "catches up" and "disappearing fast" are sort of interesting. Until that actually happens, wouldn't you say these are not myths?

I have no idea what you mean by "per unit IQ".

As I've said in other posts, there was a time -- 10+ years ago -- when printers and editors would get their panties in twist about resolution, bit depth, file sizes, color space and all the other parameters of image quality. Don't know about you, but I have heard a question like that in years.

The differences we're talking about are far, far smaller than they were a decade ago. IMO, lenses make a much larger difference on IQ than differences in sensors.

But the main thing, of course, is to be in the right position to take the shot in the first place.

Long glass is niche. It doesn't make a system economically viable. We know that because with 43 Olympus tried the exact same strategy and was forced out of the market.

At 80mm and below, an m43 system is being challenged on size, and certainly price, by FF mirrorless. And the latter has absolutely superior IQ.

This leaves m43 with no other capacity to compete but on a lower price reflecting the m43 sensor being 25% of the FF sensor.

And video? The GH5 has carved out a pretty good niche there, too.

Look, I don't disagree that there are some very fine mirrorless FF offerings these days. Over the summer I had a chance to play with a Canon R, and was very impressed.

But in the current state, the kit I would need for the stuff I like to do would, first, require long lenses on adapters, be far more costly, and not be something I could put in an airline overhead bin or carry on a boat or kayak.  Nor is the IBIS isn't good enough to leave the tripod home.  And it's not in the same league for speed with my EM1x.

Take a look at the other thread on this forum with the user report on the EM1x. The one area where there was a clear advantage for FF over mFT was low light.  And that's comparing to a D5 kit .... the Canon R is a toy by comparison.

But you're right .. mirrorless FF is moving ahead quite nicely.  There may be a point when it makes sense to invest.  But right now, given the current state of the market, I'm more than happy with my kit.

 Jeff's gear list:Jeff's gear list
Olympus 45mm F1.2 Pro Olympus PEN E-P5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M1X Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 150mm 1:2.0 +9 more
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