DSLR vs. Micro 4/3 Cameras: Which is right for you?

Modern camera with a vintage lens isolated on whiteMicro 4/3 cameras have become an extremely popular topic of discussion because they are not only smaller and lighter than most DSLRs on the market, but they also have DSLR-like features that have made several photographers scratch their heads and say, “I wonder….”

Personally, I put an Olympus EM-1 (high-end micro four-thirds camera) in my Amazon shopping cart and had it on pre-order but eventually got “camera shy” and cancelled the order.  In this post I want to walk you through some of the benefits and drawbacks to micro four-thirds cameras so you can make the decision of what camera system is right for you.

But before we get into the merits of choosing micro four thirds or sticking with a DSLR, I want to recommend you check out Derrick Story's new site TheNimblePhotographer.com.  He has put together a really nice site with lots of tips for traveling light with photo gear.  Definitely worth checking out.

Okay, let's get to work…

A few of the nice benefits to these Micro Four Thirds cameras are:

  • Smaller camera body because no mirror is used in the body which adds significantly to the bulk of the camera.
  • Lighter and smaller lenses because they do not need to reproduce as large of an image onto the sensor.
  • Price, sort of.  Micro 4/3 cameras are in an awkward stage where an industry standard price has not been settled.  Panasonic seems to be competing at low price points, but Olympus is charging mid-range DSLR prices for their Micro 4/3 cameras.
  • Cutting edge technology.  For example, the Olympus OMD allows you to continuously see a photo appear brighter and brighter as you leave the exposure open during a long exposure at night.  Then you simply stop the exposure when the preview looks good.  That's amazing!
  • Extreme portability
  • DSLR-like features (such as manual settings, hot shoe, and more)
  • Significantly longer focal lengths.  A 100mm lens on a micro 4/3 camera is like a 200mm lens on a full-frame DSLR.  This is terrific for wildlife and sports photographers (at least it would be if the autofocus were improved on micro 4/3 cameras…)

Now you are toying with the idea of giving up your DSLR and switching to the lighter and smaller Micro Four Thirds camera, aren’t you? There might be a lot of positive trade-offs, but first you need to decide what type of photographer you are. Once you have determined that, we can go through the shortcomings of the Micro 4/3 cameras. For some photographers, there are simply too many downsides to justify making the switch.

Some things to be aware of before you swap out your DSLR for a Micro Four Thirds camera:

  • No optical viewfinder, or no viewfinder at all.  For me, no viewfinder is a deal breaker.  Fortunately, the electronic viewfinders are getting better and better to the point that it beats optical viewfinders in some respects.
  • Fewer lenses – The lineup for micro 4/3 camera lenses is improving constantly, but it still is nowhere near the DSLR lens lineup.  If there were a good super telephoto lens available, I'd be more likely to buy a micro 4/3.
  • Slower auto-focus – If you are shooting any type of action, you will likely be disappointed with micro 4/3.  Some of the newer cameras are improving dramatically, but it still isn't up to where DSLRs are.
  • Inferior low-light performance – Because of the small sensor size these cameras have, they don’t support low light situations quite as well as most DSLRs.  That isn't to say they are terrible in low light, but that in general they aren't as good.  I certainly wouldn't recommend micro 4/3 for night photographers, but shooting indoors or in low light situations you'll do just fine.

Above, I asked you to consider what type of photographer you are. Think about that again now. If you are doing any type of sports action photography, wedding Photography, wildlife Photography, or landscape photography (plus any closely related subcategories of those), I would strongly suggest that you hang on to your DSLR for those shoots until these kinks are fully worked out.

If you are a more casual photographer (or if you have difficulty holding heavy things), then the Micro Four Thirds camera is probably worth serious consideration given all the pros.  Also, Micro 4/3 also makes an EXCELLENT camera for even professional travel, street, or event photographers.

However, there is nothing (short of money, of course!) that would stop any photographer who owns a DSLR from getting one of these nifty Micro Four Thirds cameras and using it as a second camera. There is certainly a place for these cameras in the industry. It could be extremely handy when you’re going somewhere and need to pack light but still need a nice camera. In time, we can bet on seeing the technology in these Micro Four Thirds cameras start to show up in future DSLRs.

So if there are so many benefits to micro 4/3, why haven't I committed?

A few reasons, really.  Although I like the micro 4/3 sensor size and think it has some really nice benefits for shooting wildlife, sports, and other long lens photography, the system does not have good long lenses available yet.  Also, I think most photographers have bought in on what the camera manufacturers want us to believe–that full frame cameras are “better.”  For this reason alone, I think the bulk of the photography crowd will be gravitating to mirrorless full frame cameras like the Sony A7r.

There are some serious limitations to the Sony full frame mirrorless bodies that were announced only a few weeks ago.  One of the major limitations is that it has no wide angle lens available AT ALL.  As a landscape photographer, that is a deal breaker.  But regardless of what I think of the drawbacks to full-frame cameras, I think that is where the industry is headed.  And if photographers flock toward Sony, the money will as well.  And where the money is–there too will be innovation.

I expect to be shooting a mirrorless camera as my primary body within the next year, but the time isn't yet until a few kinks are worked out in the next iteration, and the lens lineups fill out a bit.

What about you?  Would you consider switching or picking up a mirrorless body over the next year?


  1. I tried a last generation gx1 recently as a travel camera and thought it was close enough to an apsc DSLR. The main benefit is the total kit size/weight is smaller. And this article is not complete without asking what you’re going to do with the images. Even printing up to 11×14 is fine. Night shots were fine too though not as noise free as the latest Sony sensors.

    It is definitely slower in focus speed though and the rear screen is useless in sunlight.

  2. I shoot on a Sony a77 and love it, I also have an NEX 5. I have an adapter that allows me to use the a77 lenses on the NEC. This is perfect for family vacations where I don’t want to or can’t carry bulky body’s around (also the wife doesn’t see the NEC as a working vacation threat) I would find it hard to give up either as they both have their uses, I bring the NEC to places that I might not bring any camera like parties and On business trips. It allows you to always have a way of capturing a professional image without all the weight/bulk. Both cameras are mirrorless, there is very little downside to this with a major plus of 12 fps. All in all I would say you need both but the A7r might just change all that.

  3. Thanks very much for the comparison. My main camera is an Olympus OM-D E-M5, and while I agree with much of this, there is some that I do not. It’s actually a great camera for landscape photography, with a number of very good, high-quality wide and ultra-wide-angle lenses available. Autofocus is also blazingly fast in single-shot and hi-speed burst without tracking. And the built-in electronic viewfinder is really nice, works great in daylight, and I like it better than an optical viewfinder, as you are in ‘live view” all the time, and yet there is no hit to the autofocus speed. Regarding noise and high ISO performance: actually as good as the top APS-C DSLRs, and consistently usable up to at least 3200, and even higher in some cases. And it’s REALLY small and light. I can put it in a jacket pocket with a pancake lens on it, and carry three other lenses in the pockets of my shorts or pants. Plus it’s fully weathersealed. And there are a few zoom lenses that go out to a 600mm full-frame equivalent FOV, and they weigh less than a pound – a tiny fraction of the size of their DSLR equivalents. With its wide selection of great, fast prime lenses available (either Olympus, Panasonic, or legacy glass via a small adaptor), shallow depth of field and pleasing bokeh are readily available for those who like to shoot wide open. There’s also the 5-axis image stabilization, which works on all lenses, including old manual focus lenses, like my little Zuiko 50mm f/1.8. The stabilization REALLY works. Handheld wide-angles at 1/3 second with my camera are great. With the new E-M1, reviewers are boasting about sharp one-full-second hand-held times.

    The two things I do long for from time to time are just a touch shallower depth of field on a very large subject (such as a full-body portrait), or better tracking autofocus on a fast-moving bird. With the right lenses, it does well in these respects, but definitely does lose out in the comparison with a full-frame camera. Particularly on autofocus accuracy in tracking a moving subject (although this is also apparently vastly improved with the new E-M1 and its addition of phase-detect autofocus). But if you are primarily a sports-action or birds-in-flight photographer, then this camera is probably not your best choice. And if you want it mainly for video, and secondarily for stills, I’d suggest the Panasonic GH2, which really excels for this, and is being used increasingly by professional videographers. For literally everyone else, though, the Olympus OM-D line is a great option, and I’d say for street shooters, landscape photographers, backpackers, and anyone looking to travel light, it may be the very best option overall.

  4. Many mirrorless cameras these days are not micro 4/3, they are APS-C sized sensors.

  5. I bought a Sony NEX 7 last year, it’s an amazing camera and I almost decided to switch over completely from my Nikon dslr system. The only thing that held me back was the poor low light performance of the electronic viewfinder, making night photography near impossible. This new Sony A7 full frame MILC may have solved that issue. I’ll need to check it out.

  6. I’m pretty new to the game and am nowhere near being a professional but from my perspective starting with a canon t3i and now moving to a sony NEX-6, the change was very easy. I’m taking the sony everywhere, it takes equal or better quality photos and when traveling it is easy to take it and all of the lens along with me in a smaller bag. Plus there is the safety aspect of it not looking like a “real” camera which makes carrying it around in questionable areas feel safer which again, allows me to carry it more places. I’m happy I made the change….Just my 2 cents.

  7. I was very disappointed when the camera companies brought out the ‘4/3’ camera rage as a separate range. I was hoping that they’ll produce a flat, small body mirrorless camera that can attache to the original DSLR lenses. Only then will you have the best of both worlds – the full size lens to allow low light capabilities as well as the other advantages of mirrorless cameras.

    Why was this not done? Why a separate range? Any idea if any of the camera companies plan to introduce the above described ‘best of both worlds’ camera?

  8. I would love to switch to mirrorless, but I haven’t yet, for some of the reasons you mentioned. First, I love shooting full frame, so I am waiting for more full frame mirrorless cameras to be developed. Second, I love my current lens lineup, and there are no mirrorless equivalents to some of my lenses (e.g. 135 f/2). Finally, I enjoy shooting action and wildlife from time to time, and I don’t feel mirrorless cameras are well suited to this. Maybe one day, all these problems will be fixed, though!

  9. I currently do not own a DSLR, I shoot photo’s (outdoo, landscape) for a hobby and take lots of photo’s of my kids sports and am looking at getting either the Sony A 77 or A 65. Wanting something with a fast shutter speed to catch the best action shots. Would This be a good choice or should I go with the Nex 7.

  10. Because the four thirds(and subsequently “micro” four thirds) system was designed as an open source system! With a blank sheet of paper. The current crop of Canon/Nikon Dslrs are digital adaptations of 35mm film cameras (from the ‘1960’stechnology )with the mechanical flipping mirror optical view finder path.doing away with it allowed the shorter lens to sensor “back focus”distance creating the “micro”designation. less lens-sensor distance makes an even smaller lens possible.

    A smaller sensor demands a smaller image circle from the lens to cover the sensor. So the lenses can be (much) physically smaller and lighter. A 35mm full frame lens stuck to a m4:3 body defeats the purpose.and makes it hard to handle. Most of the image circle would be wasted.falling off the smaller sensor.

  11. A 100mm is like a 200mm? What mirrorless camera has a 2.0x crop? My NEX 7 is a 1.5x crop.

    1. To be exact Brian, it’s even 2.1 crop factor, so I am using a Yashica Tomioka 1.2/55 which gives me a 120mm compared to full frame, keeping the f1.2 as bigges opening, and the minimum focus to 50cm!

      When I use my 6.3/400mm Yashinon, I end up with a 6.3/840mm(!) focussing up to 9 meters. Would cost really big bucks to get anywhere close on full frame cameras, that’s for sure.

      On top of this my Olympus EPL& has stabilisation build in the body, which I can easily set for 400mm. I don’t need anything else.

  12. 1. The photo for this article comparing DSLRs to Micro 4/3 is a photo of a APS-C Sony NEX (not micro 4/3). NEX cameras have a significantly larger sensor (same as many DSLR cameras) and a 1.5x crop factor.

    2. You mentioned that the lenses are smaller for ILC cameras, this is not always the case. Especially with APS-C cameras, like the NEX the lenses are often larger then comparable DSLR lenses.

    3. You mentioned the lack of lens selection, but left out one of the biggest advantages of mirrorless cameras, the ability to use nearly any lens ever made with adapters. See this articles photo for an example. Due to the short flange distance you can adapt almost ANY lens to a mirrorless camera, this opens up a huge world of amazing and cheap legacy lenses. Depending on the lens and adapter, it may be limited to manual focus and manual aperture.

    4. I know this article was written about Micro 4/3 but you really should mention and consider APS-C mirrorless cameras. Most of the comments here are regarding NEX cameras. Low light performance is not an issue with APS-C.

    5. Other advantages of mirrorless were not mentioned. Fast burst FPS (4-10 fps), less moving parts, quieter shutter release, etc. You seemed to be comparing Micro 4/3 to full frame DSLR, it would make more sense to compare mirrorless to entry-mid level DSLRs. Most people who are considering mirrorless cameras are moving from or comparing to non-fullframe DSLRs. Most pro shooters I know would not consider Micro 4/3 for their primary camera, but some may consider APS-C cameras like the NEX7. Many will consider the new Sony A7 and A7r full frame mirrorless cameras; the only (for now) full frame mirrorless ILC cameras available.

  13. Terrible, terrible article, written by someone who doesn’t really know what he is talking about. Articles like this are a dime a dozen. Contrary to what he claims, a smaller sensor does not imply a longer focal length. This is asinine. The effect to which he alludes is what is correctly known as “crop factor”. The effect is entirely the same as taking your large sensor camera and cropping the image after the fact. He similarly is confused when he says that small-sensor cameras have inferior low-light performance in poor light. This also is pure poppycock.

  14. I have used many camera formats in all sorts of environments and really appreciate what the companies involved in m4/3 have done. I disagree with most of the negatives described in this article. While DSLR cameras that cost more $$ than m4/3 cameras will perform better in “focus tracking” situations a serious photographer can easily get a respectable amount of great images from m4/3 cameras in any fast action situation. I shoot soccer and baseball with great success, but I don’t have to blast off 500 shots in a game to get 50 good ones. The m4/3 camera system (including lenses) are exactly what photographers have been crying for for many decades – a light weight camera and lens to replace their heavy and bulky SLR’s.

  15. I’m guessing you have never shot with a m43 camera. Try it you might like (love) it! You say “you don’t feel mirrorless are well suited” without ever using one sounds like you are living on what others say without knowing! Oh well, as long as you are having fun creating!

  16. Jim, if you could recommend ANY of the current crop of Canon APS-C sensor cameras for landscape photography, then you must surely recommend the OMD EM1. Listen boys and girls, the OMD’s sensor beats, that’s right, BEATS the ANY Canon APS-C DSLR in color depth and dynamic range: bit.ly/1aJX3pa.
    Oh, what about noise you ask? Well, it’s just as good even if it’s smaller: bit.ly/19qzOAP

  17. One other point for professional photographers: With a micro 4/3 camera you lose exactly 2 stops of shallow depth of field versus a full frame camera, And one stop versus in a PSC sensor size camera.

    In other words, shooting an F2.8 lens on a micro 4/3 camera is going to give you f 5.6 depth of field. And if you shoot with an F1 .4 lens, we’re going to get F2 .8 depth of field.

  18. I am considering a switch to OM-D E-M1. The main subject will be Kung Fu demonstrations and sparing.

    It would be great, if there is anyone who can share experience on using that camera for such action base photography.


  19. I only started thinking about this more recently. Now that newer computer monitors and tablets are becoming ultra high resolution, pixel level detail will become more apparent, even to casual photographers who rarely print. As a micro four thirds user, I really hope their sensors keep improving, but I think full frame mirrorless is the way of the future.

  20. So does that mean that a 4/3 camera can’t replicate the shallow depth of field look that I love so much for portraiture? I am looking to upgrade from a point and shoot and I don’t think I want to deal with a large DSLR–but I’m mostly interested in people pictures with flattering skin tones and the out-of-focus background look. Would a 4/3 camera be a mistake?

  21. It doesn’t mean that, it means that you will need to select the right parameters in your camera considering the crop factor.

    I do a lot of portrait using Olympus’ 45mm 1.8 and you get quite shallow DOF. There is a 75mm f1.8 that would do even better.

    I travel a lot for business and I always bring my PL5 with me, along with the Pany 20mm lens… I couldn’t do the same with a DSRL.

    These days, I’ve seen adds of an Oly PM2 with 2 zooms for $349… add the 45mm for $377 and you will be a happy camper, IMO.

  22. If we were to take equivalent images (same exposure time, same FoV, same DoF) we would have to use smaller aperture on a full frame camera and bump up the ISO. The amount of light captured would be exactly the same as with M43 camera. Granted, there are situations where we don’t care that much about depth of field or exposure time equivalence, such as landscape photos. In this case, even if light hits sensors with the same intensity on both cameras, full frame has more pixels to work with and this resolution can be traded off for noise. But there’s nothing inherently “better” about full frame although there are certainly cases where its use is more appropriate.

  23. Kevin, it depends. Mirrorless full frame cameras will probably displace current high-end DSLRs over time. As long as the cost of FF camera and lenses (or its size and weight) is prohibitive for a casual photographer (or travel/street photographer), there will be a market also for smaller systems. Since sensor technology keeps improving, we might soon reach a point of diminishing returns with larger systems. We are actually quite close already. So, I can imagine that multiple mirrorless systems can coexist. It just depends what tradeoffs are you willing to accept for your particular style of photography.

  24. I’ve got a ful frame canon 1dsmkII; 24-70 f2.8 L andthe70-200f2.8 L(series I)
    16 mpx.

    I just bought a lumix Gh-3 and the pan/leica25 mmf1.4:
    Composition,Subject expression, catching a fleeting moment of time, Exposure, Contrast,(“photo style”color/b&W),noise/grain.All these and more combine to make a meaningful “photograph” instead of a sloppy meaningless snapshot.

    Yet people continue to discuss “sensor size” and pixel peep.We all want to feel “justified” in making the “right” choices( NO?).

    I missed 100%of the photographs Ii could have made by leaving my beast of a full frame rig at home.

    Technically: the smaller m4/3 sensor gives more depth of field for a given lens/aperture/subject distance.
    Sometimes that can be a good thing (like when the light is low and i want both brides AND grooms eyes in focus. OTHERWISE its close enough it’s not a make or break issue. Therefore “Slightly larger Depth of field”= Non-issue.

    Jan 2014: the pro glass is here now: Lumix offers a12-35mm f2.8 zoom and a 35-100 f2.8 ( 35mm equivalent 24-70 2.8 & 70-200 f2.8). There is a new pan/leica 42.5mm f 1.2(85mm equivalent f.o.v.), a 75mm f1.8(150mm equivalent f.ov.)So fast portrait primes are now available.

    “Super high” framerate on theGH-3 is 20 frames/second;I haven’t had chance to shoot any wake boarding yet it’s -3 outside; but I can’t wait to grab 20 frames of my subject. catching air.

    Digital DSLRs are built on 50+years of mechanical technology.(mirror flipping). Of course they ARE most capable in “10/ tenths”( high speed sports at night “) use.

    Why argue anymore: but mirrorless is fast approaching that last :”10 /tenths” capability and for the remaining 9/tenths uses it is already there.

    Saw a recent post where a commercial photographer shot a symphony promo piece with a Fuji X100S ( because the leaf shutter allowed a 1/640 sync speed) and the final product was reproduced as an 80 footx18 foot hanging building banner.

    Fight it all you want: IMHO The future is here ; its lighter; smaller; faster and “mirrorless”.

  25. Hi I already typed all this before reading the other answers, so just as my five cents:

    Concerning the skin tones: i think there is no real difference between m43/aps-c/full frame: it depends more of eg the dynamic range of the sensor and the processing engine etc. You can also tweak this in post processing. I find the Olympus JPEG rendering quite nice (i own an om-d emd-5) In terms of the shallow depth of field: it is true that this is less easily obtained on a m43 sensor than on a FF. This is because of the 2x crop factor. On a m43 camera a 50mm lens with f2 aperture opening will give you the same depth of field as 100mm lens f4 on a full frame. This means that you can get some extra shallow depth of field on the full frame by opening the aperture a little bit more. The creaminess of the unsharp parts (bokeh) is also function of the number of aperture blades and how round the opening is. I’d suggest you have a look at some portraits on flickr taken with certain lenses on flickr to judge if there is enough shallow DOF for you. For me, m43 is good enough in terms of shallow DOF when you use fast prime lenses like the Oly 45mm or 75mm f1.8. Since I’m on a budget i use my old minolta 50mm 1.7 manual focus (with an adaptor) and i have to close it down to about f3.5 just to be able to be sure to get the shot in focus enough. Also, if you are used to compact point and shoot camera’s: you will notice already a huge difference in terms of the seperation you can get by using m43. You also mention the size of the camera: apart from the benefit i’d be able to re-use my old manual focus minolta lenses, the size issue was for me a huge reason to go for m43: I am not that confident to put a large camera with equally large lense in someones face just to get a real shallow DOF portrait. This is also why I never really considered aps-c because the camera’s are still too big and still not Full Frame. The advent of the Sony A7 is a real gamechanger in this respect though!

  26. I am the photographer who made the image for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to which you refer. The right tool for the right job is more important to me than ‘what is the better camera.’ Using a hammer instead of a wrench doesn’t mean a wrench is a poor tool, it simply means it was not the best tool for the job at hand. The X100S is a remarkable tool and I chose it for that specific job due to its leaf shutter and hi sync speed capabilities.

    When I am photographing action as with dance or live theatre I use my DSLR simply because the X100S is not fast enough from a focusing standpoint.

    The observations about DSLRs being dead may be a great media headline, but for my work it remains a vital tool in my arsenal of choices. It’s much the same as only using a softbox as my only light modifier.

  27. Huruvida APC är bättre än M43 är en teoretisk fråga. Praktiska resultat från bilder visar liten skillnad förutsatt att man jämför likvärdig optik o inställningar.
    Min huvudbry är kostnad för likvärdig utrustning, fördel APC på många sätt, fördel bättre linser o flera för M43 systemet exempel. Med Sony A6000 finns en enda 24 ff 35 lins dvs Zeiss. För M43 20mm/1.7 panncake och så finns massor med pengar kvar. Olympus Om Em5 (tror jag den heter) med bildstabilisering (5 ax) mot A6000. Olympus lockar, Apc också!

  28. Some of this is good info, but some of this does not add up to me. Have nikon, sony apc-s cameras and great primes for them. The picture quality is not any better in many forefronts.
    Same with a canon camera I had with expensive primes. Photography is an art like an pallette of colors to an artist.
    Not really one better than the other. The 4/3 format makes it expensive for wide angle lenses BUT their out there and their very good. I base my experience on the olympus line have had from e-300, e-510, e-p1, om-d m-5. The zuiko lenses are so much higher quality kit lenses and updates right off the internet attached to the camera for panasonic also. Clearly leave some of the old brands in the old fashioned dust. So I would be careful to do the old faithful if the sensor is smaller it is not as good with the end result. Many reviewers had trouble saying the smaller sensor pictures were any less quality than the apc-s big units. Many said the color was way more accurate with the micro 4/3 in olympus land. There is a great comparison to a full frame camera side by side and the color is better and the way more detail in the 4/3 picures as well.
    The smaller body all day is worth its weight in energy to take that extra gold picture!

  29. Spot on! I’ve bought an Olympus at a bargain price – I don’t regret it, but just a quick look at Nikon DSLR lens choices will bring my mood down. Whatever I’ve spared on the body, I’ll have to pay it as premium on m4/3 lenses, and the choice is much more limited.
    M4/3 is not inherently better. DSLR are not obsolete yet. DSLR are more than just a body design (mirror), they are a whole philosophy of changes conservatively (and the term and identity needs some rethiking). M4/3 are a refreshing, and that was highly needed. They’re about making the best of what you have, not having the best of what is made 🙂
    Okay, enough.

  30. There is no one size fits all. I have a Nikon FF system and just added a m4/3. I use the Nikon for commercial and portrait and the m4/3 to take hiking and when I need something light. I love being able to isolate a subject with FF so I won’t give that up, but otherwise the quality of the 4/3 is terrific and I am well pleased. Focus speed isn’t an issue, it focuses almost as fast as my DSLR. Only real problem is it is almost too small, doesn’t want to fit my largish hands very well. For landscapes I would not worry at all using it over my Nikon.

  31. I have a new mirrorless camera that fits my Canon EF lenses. I find I am using it more and more instead of my 60D.

    It isn’t perfect and I would not have paid the launch price for it. But the EOS-M (with it’s flaws), is becoming an all time favourite.

  32. I’m one of those that ditched my FF Canon DSLR (5D) in favor of a Panasonic m43 camera — specifically, the DMC-GX7. I really sweated the decision but now that I’ve done it, I’m happy. My Canon kit was getting to bloody heavy to haul all over creation. I love my little Panny and enjoy great results. Sure, my 5D was quieter in low light, but the GX7 is no slouch, either. And my kit is 5kg lighter — fabulous for extensive travel that I do.

    I shoot landscapes, still lifes, that sort of thing. The Panny 7-14mm m43 lens is terrific!

  33. Hi,

    You said that micro 4/3 are not as good as a dslr in low light because the sensor is smaler, but the last aps-c sensors released have 24 megapixels and micro 4/3 have 16 megapixels. If you divide the área of each one by the number of megapixels it gives you the same size for each pixel.

    1. Author

      @Rui – Just giving each photosite the same amount of area from which to gather light does NOT mean the two sensors perform the same in low light.

  34. loled at saying lens are limited on fourthird.

    i noticed that ‘photographer’ keeps asking for more and more lens, and yet when i check they all use popular lens only. come on.

  35. I had my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 for about a year. It is a Micro Forur Third camera. My only complains are the range of lenses. 300 mm seams to be max. With the modern digiatl technology it is not a big deal anymore. For an amateur photographer, this size is very good. My friends still wants those heavy cameras from Canon and Nikon. My Panasonic has enough of features for all kind of environments. More about learn to use them all.
    Should I want to have a 1000mm lens which I had when cameras were analog. Of course.

  36. I have Canon 6D with 35 mm Sigma 1.4, and E-M10 zuiko 17mm 1.7. I can say that after I got Olympus system in my camera bag, Thats the camera I used for 95% of the time. I dont do anything professonaly, photography is my hobby. But this camera surprise me a lot. After using a few mirrorless cameras such as Sony nex 5r and fuji x100s, I can say that Olympus is number one for me. I was shooting on the moving bus from NY to Boston with a total darkness and was able to do great handheld shoot with 1/4 sec and ISO 2000. That was a time when I realise AXIS system is fantastic. So you can just drop down your ISO and exposure at night time and believe me, AXIS will take care of the rest. Not surprised Sony got it from Olympus and put it on their New A7II.

  37. I have no current interest in dumping my FF Canon system. But I have got into the micro four-thirds system, specifically Olympus, in a big way. And that led me to getting rid of all of my Canon APS gear.

    In a short time, I have lenses from 8mm to 300mm (16mm-600mm in FF terms) that take up about half the size and weight of my Canon system. I also have f/2.8 or better from 28mm-300mm in FF terms, which, along with the crazy good IBIS in OM-Ds these days, is functionally better in low light than I had expected. No, it won’t rival my 6D with f/1.4 50mm lensin the dark… but that’s true of most APS and FF cameras, too.

    1. Treu the focus on birds in flight isn’t yet on the same track as mirror camera’s Though with the omd em-1 and em-2mark2 its getting there.

      Though i do see some killer Concert fotography comming by,
      Specialy with the F0.95 lenses or even the F1.8 primes
      This in combination with the great Axis Stabilisation wich gives you 2 stops they are a real joy to work with.

      They are also low weight
      Canon 6d =755g
      omd -em1 497g

    2. I just got a Pentax k3 to replace my aging k20d. The noise improvements with the newer APS-C sensors are just phenomenal. I can’t believe how much better it is. I thought I would have to switch to full frame to get this kind of improvement.

      Given how much i have noticed noise levels improving on just APS-C, I’m not totally sure that sensor size matters as much as people think it does. Also there are reviews out there that don’t show much of a difference in noise from APS-C vs full frame vs 4/3rds.

  38. Most people are going to full frame that is 35mm. which is larger sensor. It is very expensive so I settle for APS-C . I loved Zeiss lense because they give sharp and clarity. So I settle for Sony Nex with APS-C sensor and a expensive Carl Zeiss lens. My first Nex broke down and it is expensive to repair so I bought another higher Nex model.

  39. I do wish that when people like you who write an article about new technology or about anything else where time is relevant, that you should PUT A BLOOD DATE at the top of your article.

    Questions such as… “What about you? Would you consider switching or picking up a mirrorless body over the next year?”
    They are meaningless questions, because we do not know when NEXT YEAR is, because we don’t know when you wrote the article.


  40. I am exploring and use a variety of cameras. I would perhaps like a micro 4/3 camera if it had a viewfinder and tiltable screen. I don’t see them as being significantly smaller than an APS C DSLR because Micro 4/3 sensor is about the same size as an APS C so I am confused about that point of sellability. This means the lenses for the micro 4/3 are not that much smaller than the lenses for the APS C DSLRs. I do have a Pentax Q and it has a tiny sensor so consequently tiny lenses. I also have a Pentax SLR and a variety of compacts. I like the pocketable compacts for carriability. Even the tiny Pentax Q is a pain to have to carry lenses about. I think it depends on what you are using it for.

  41. My issue with many newer camera is the lack of an eye-level viewfinder.

    I find it difficult to both hold the camera steady with the slow shutter speeds that I use for existing light photographs without an eye-level viewfinder and to see many the image on an LCD screen in strong light.

    If someone can come up with a solution to these problems, then I’m willing to switch camera types.

  42. Advantages to M4/3rds?

    You can focus anywhere on the screen, not where the focus sensor tells you to; in fact, for a guy like me that does people and annual report, you can use the face focus feature and it will focus on a face where ever that face is, even in the far corners, far away from where a conventional focus point would be in a conventional DSLR. Since DSLR’s have stopped using easily focusable screens years ago, unless you get a KatzEye put in or something, you cannot just go manual with precision. This alone is worth the change…

    Multi-aspect ratio. Again, something worth changing for. Most of us long term advertising and commercial pros spent our entire life shooting either 4X5 format, or square. For 90% of what I do, the 3:2 ratio is unusable (or at least a waste)! I love the fact that M4/3rd’s allows you to shoot in 1:1, 3:2, 4:3 and 16:9. The only thing that would be better, is if a FF camera did this (BTW, the Sony’s do NOT offer all these aspect ratios). We are bombarded by the tyranny of the 3:2, 35mm film aspect ration, only because the affordable pro/am cameras (which most pros have to buy anyway), are based on these bodies. The hyper-pro 120 DSLR based digital equipment is all 4:3 (i.e. 4X5), but who can afford $50,000 USD?

    Despite what someone on here said, the M 4/3rd’s camera system has an excellent (and affordable) line of lenses (especially primes), between Olympus and Panasonic. I switched to digital from film with Nikon APS-C cameras, and Nikon has never made reasonably priced f/2.8 modern “G” series primes for the APS-C format. They either make hyper-expensive f/1.4 lenses, or their new series, of just really expensive f/1.8 lenses. Canon at least has made nice, reasonably priced f/2.8 primes that one can use on APS-C, (but neither system has prime APS-C wide angle lenses. Pentax has gone down this road, so plus one for them. I want to disabuse anyone from thinking that “pros” all use f/1.4 lenses, or need them. Maybe sports shooters, but most commercial and ad shooters need to get a certain amount of things in focus on the image based on client needs, and this is rarely, and I mean rarely, at f/1.4, in fact, you are usually down to around f/5.6! That’s why for decades, far back from digital, most “pros” never owned hyper-fast lenses, and just rented them “on need”. In a 40 year career, I probably rented fast lenses 5 times.

  43. Excellent overview. I found it very useful. I have prosumer level DSLR gear and have been struggling lately with the idea getting more into bird photography. I’ll never be able to justify quality long fast DSLR lenses and am intrigued by the 2x crop. Then when I started to read more about MFT, I started seeing other benefits like size and weight. Anyway, great points above to consider. I think I will start to transition over soon.

  44. The article is informative, it has me holding off just now. But I see in the further year that one will be in my bag. The A7R 11 Sony has my attention, for traveling light and able to shoot quality photo with a raw file is good to me. For now though I would look at a good telephoto lens that are available for this kit. 42.3 MP is good.

  45. Thanks for the review. I am an enthusiastic APS-C shooter. Recently the 4/3 has caught my attention. I guess I will be buying a second hand with 12-40mm lens just to try it out and see if It’s something for me. Any ways I like the seize and weight of it. It is a lot less hassle to carry around.

  46. The mirror just fell off its mount on my Canon EOS 5D!! I’m looking for a full frame mirrorless camera!!

  47. A great article, thank you! I am about to buy my first camera (upgrading from a little Panasonic Lumix compact camera) as I feel I have outgrown it, I want to progress to manual settings and learning more about photography, I was set on the Nikkon D5500 when a fellow photographer said the Olympus OMD EM1 is much better, which led me to investigating 4/3 cameras and added a bit of confusion I admit… he is a bird photographer, so I can now see why this would work for him, while I am an aspiring landscape photographer, having read this article and a couple of others I think my first choice is better suited for me… any comments or advice would be gratefully received…

  48. Very good thought provoking article. Last July I bought the Oly EM10 for my son with two kit lenses. Within 1/2 hour he was showing me the amazingly sharp images on his iPhone via the wifi. WTH! He had it figured out in minutes. I’ve always enjoyed my Canon G11 for travel, but a couple months later I found an EM10 ($300 used) for myself and had fun shooting with a 17mm 2.8. Well, I got the MFT bug and found an EM5 MkII with battery grip for $700. Perfect condition. Added the 45mm 1.8, and Pany 35-100mm 2.8.
    I’ve done two HS senior portrait sessions and DO NOT miss the back-aching weight of my Canon 70-200mm 2.8 at all. I do love that lens, but after back surgery less than a year ago, I simply won’t lug that around anymore, even though I often used a tripod for sessions.
    My only disappointment with the M4/3 is an image test I did with Pany 35-100mm vs Canon 70-200mm. With subject 10 ft away and background steps/railing 30-40 ft behind subject, the equivalent BG blurred steps with Pany @f2.8 was the Canon @ f5.6-f8. Not quite f8 but definitely beyond 5.6. Bummer. However, the light weight and compactness of the Oly em5II was refreshing and I could shoot all day with that dude. I’ll sell the 70-200 but may hold onto the body and 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.4

  49. This is a article from 2013
    While the basics of the article is still the same The new body ‘s of micro 4/3 are far superior to the old em5mark1.
    Even the em1 got great software updates of Wich 1 is focus bracketing…
    Also there are far more great (pro) lenses available now.
    Wich give great results.
    Focusing is greatly improved.

    Small wildlife still can be a challenge but for portret and street they are great.
    For portret / close-up M4/3 even works in your advantage
    With lots of cheap primes f 1.8 you wont need much light to shoot and with your x2 factor your depth (3.6) is much more workable.
    there is even a 0.95 noctrune available.

    So if you don’t want all that bulk on your back, and still wanne create great photo’s……..
    Don’t believe me yust check flickr

  50. I am an amateur photographer and take landscape nearly all the time, occasionally in low light. The liking for landscape comes from a lifetime collecting English watercolours (about which I know much more than cameras, but it does give me a decent feel for shots).

    I have used a Panasonic TZ6 for convenience and for the Leica lens, but there are obvious limitations. I would like to move on, but there are too many choices.

    Money is not really an issue, but I do not like the weight of DSLR. Which cameras and lenses should I consider please? I occasionally print shots, but not often.

  51. yes. I prefer mirrorless camera as a professional photographer and videographer, I think mirrorless is far better.

  52. You said that Sony e (for me; Sony a7RII) has no wide-angle lens for nature photographing. Is that “a slip of the tongue”? What about canon f2.8 II 16-35mm, isn’t good for nature photographing and for northern light? There are native glass fitting this camera for nature shooting,too.

    The new olympus f4.0 PRO 300mm is an exiting glass, I’m waiting for it…

  53. About the argument that M4/3 equipment is lighter: this is false. For a given focal length, to obtain the same low light performance and depth of field characteristic with M4/3 compared to Full Frame (FF), one needs to have M4/3 lenses four time more luminous (2 f-stops lower). This ruins all weight advantages of M4/3.
    1) FF lens 50 mm f/2.0: typically Pentax (140 g) or top performing Leica Summicron (240 g). M4/3 equivalent focal lens 25 mm and its maximum aperture has to be f/1.0. Only available choice: Voigtlander Nokton f/0.95 (410 g). The weight benefit clearly belongs to the FF world.
    2) FF wide angle lens 25 mm f/4.0: typically Voigtlander color-skopar (144 g). M4/3 equivalent lens 12 mm : Zuiko f/2.0 (130 g). Slight but non significant weight advantage to the M4/3 world.
    3) FF small telelens 100 mm f/2.0: typically Canon (460 g). M4/3 equivalent lens 50 mm: again there is only one world contender: the Voigtlander Nokton f/0.95 (435 g). Non significant weight advantage to the M4/3 world.
    4) FF camera body: Sony A7ii (600 g). M4/3: Olympus equivalent: OM-D E-M1 (500 g). Slight weight advantage of M4/3 equipment.
    a) One can be practically as lightweight in the FF than in the M4/3 world with equivalent performing lenses.
    b) To match relatively modest FF performance with M4/3 equipment, one has no other choice than to resort to top performing M4/3 lenses (such as the Nokton series).
    c) For people, such as professionals, seeking ultra performances, only the FF world enters into consideration.

    1. Your argument depends on the assumption that the “depth of field characteristic” of full frame lenses is always a requirement. Shallow depth of field is an artistic choice. Landscape photographers typically want greater depth of field which is what the Micro 4/3 system provides. Hiking with my EM5 mk2 with the Olympus 12-40 f2.8 is going to be significantly less taxing due to the light weight of the system compared to a full frame camera with a 24-80 f2.8, and given the kind of work I will be doing depth of field isn’t a consideration.

  54. ?????? “c) For people, such as professionals, seeking ultra performances, only the FF world enters into consideration.”
    I could list a dozen ultra performing pros that use micro 4/3 almost exclusively.
    I wonder, have you owned a micro 4/3 camera?
    I don’t care about weight. What I care is that I can shove my om-d em5 m2 in my jacket pocket. Is it possible that people can get stunning photos out of a wide variety of gear? There are masters of the craft that use iPhones exclusively, even disposable film cameras. with this attitude no wonder newbies get intimidated. You guys are worse than video gamers and I thought they were bad.

  55. Hi, I am not a photographer, but looking for a camera with good zoom and sensor that is small and easy to carry. I have been thinking about Sony RX100 or similar. Which camera would you recommend for this price range?

  56. I own a canon 5dm2 and the new panasonic g7. I took both cameras with. E to the zoo and was shocked at the detail in the mft camera over the canon 5d2. I am amazed also at the cost of lenses for the mft lenses and size co. Pared to the canon lenses.. Of course i shol for usex lenses over new ones but for me its the size the weight of the gear to do photography with.. I may end up selling my 5d2 just so i can get a 35-100 f2.8 lens which is equivelent to the 70-200 f2.8 lens.
    I now own the 14-42/45-200/100-300. I now have every possible coverage except fot the wide angle which i am looki g into seriously 7-14 lens.. So far i bought the pan g7 and 14-42 new for 500.00 and the 2 other lenses for 540.00 also 2 batteries more and the 32 gig card for60.00. So i have only 1100.00 i vested into this new system and co. Bined weight of everything is less than 5 lbs.. So is the new technology of the g7 mft out weighi g the ffs?

  57. Hi….I own a canon 7d mark 11 but due to the weight, I’m looking for a travel camera. I love my good pics and don’t want to buy something I might hate.

    I’m confused over the micro 4/3 or full frame.

    I’m looking at either Panasonic Gx8 or Sony A7r11 or if I should be considering Olympus – comments please?

  58. Selecting your camera system is all about comprises. There are some areas where full frame cameras are superior to Micro 4/3s, but due to some clever engineering and innovation, Olympus and Panasonic have narrowed the gap to the point where I think Micro 4/3s is a better choice for most people.

    I switched from an extensive Canon APS-C collection to Micro 4/3 when the very first Olympus EP-1 was released. For me it was all about the size and weight. I do a lot of mountain biking photography, and with M4/3 I can carry a comprehensive kit that is still light enough for me to actually enjoy my ride. Same goes for hiking or any other activity where hauling a bunch of weight detracts. Additionally street photography is much easier with M4/3 cameras because they are small and inconspicuous and people tend to act more natural when they don’t have a giant lens & camera pointed at them.

    The EP-1 had a lot of limitations compared to DSLR cameras. Autofocus was horrendously slow, and low light image quality was lacking. Despite those limitations I still preferred my little camera because I was able to take it with me without detracting from the activity itself.

    Fortunately, in the years since that first camera (and since this article was written) M4/3 cameras have come a long way to the point that they are superior to DSLR cameras in many respects.

    Size/cost – This is the obvious advantage, but what you may not have considered is how the smaller size factors into the price. With M4/3 you can get fast, sharp, professional grade zoom lenses at about half the cost of their full frame/DSLR equivalents. The smaller sensor scales everything down, including the prices.

    Image Quality – No, most of the images you get with M4/3 will not be as detailed as those from a contemporary full frame camera, but does it matter? Are you making poster size prints all the time? Most people make very few prints and primarily share their photos on social media, and on a screen you will not be able to tell the difference between and image taken with a m4/3 camera and a full frame camera. But you can still make large prints from M4/3 and they will look great. Additionally the latest Olympus cameras have a high res mode that uses pixel shift to create incredibly detailed 40-48mp images that are more detailed than the images produced by most full frame cameras. It’s true that this feature in its current state has some limitations, like requiring the use a tripod and shooting still subjects, but it really works for landscapes and still life, and future iterations (the EM1 mk2) will remove the tripod requirement.

    Autofocus – Not as fast as most DSLRs, particularly for moving subjects, but it’s not far behind. It’s also more accurate because the AF is done on the sensor instead of with a separate AF mechanism which requires calibration. Future M4/3 will close the gap even more, like the EM1 mk2 which will have fast contrast detect autofocus on the sensor which will probably as good or better than the best DSLR cameras.

    Lens selection – At this point I doubt anyone will find the M4/3 system lacking. Olympus and Panasonic have both released pro grade super telephoto lenses that filled the telephoto gap mentioned in the article. Additionally you have some lenses that have no equivalents in any other system, like the Olympus 8mm f1.8 fisheye, which is the fastest fisheye lens you can buy. Olympus is also renowned for the optical performance of its lenses. Even their cheap lenses are tack sharp. Furthermore, due to the shorter mount to film plan distance and smaller sensor and the number of adapters you can get, you have a selection of literally thousands of lenses from other systems and older manual focus lenses you can play with.

    Tech – Olympus and Panasonic have both been more innovative than their competitors who mostly focus on megapixels, Panasonic with video features and Olympus with features for stills. Olympus has the best image stabilization in the business. In some cases this completely compensates for inferior low light performance because it allows you to use up to fives stops slower shutter speeds. Olympus’s Live Time and Live Composition modes for long exposures allow you to monitor the exposure in real time and this feature is amazing and genuinely useful. You can also use your phone as a remote and actually see the photo you are taking on your phone’s screen. Amazing stuff that their competition will eventually try to copy.

    Video – I’m more of a stills guy, but there’s no way I can talk about the M4/3s system without mentioning video and the great work Panasonic has done here. The GH series camera are hands down one of the best options for video production, and they’ve been utilized by professional videographers for years for some legit productions.

    I’ll concede that for a lot of pros full frame is the obvious choice. It is superior when it comes to out-and-out image quality and depth of field control. But pros haul around huge camera cases and even have assistants to do a lot of the heavy lifting. That said, many pros still choose M4/3s and find the benefits of the smaller size & weight allow them to be more mobile and that is worth the other compromises. But for the average hobbyist shooter, I believe M4/3s is a better option because it’s smaller, lighter, and cheaper and provides similar levels of flexibility, creative potential, and image quality compared to the best full frame/DSLR systems. Fundamentally, I think if you have a M4/3 system you are more likely to have your camera with you all the time, and you’ll be able to capture more moments than with a heavier system that you may not have wanted to schlep up the trail or to the pub.

  59. I have both a Nikon dslr APS-C system and a Panasonic micro 4/3 system.

    They both have advantages and disadvantages but give me a nice flexible choice of equipment. I haven`t bothered with FF systems as I am happy with what I`ve got!

    I prefer my panasonic system for travelling/family/holidays and videos.

    The Nikon system is better for more serious composition/stills and flash work (nothing beats Nikon`s creative lighting system!)

    I have recently added a Panasonic FZ330 bridge camera which boasts a superb Leica 25-600mm f/2.8 zoom lens and 4K video.

    I intend to continue using both systems.

  60. Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of
    the issues. It was definitely informative. Your website is extremely helpful.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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