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Friday, 23 November 2018


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From my POV, Tony Northrup is an annoyingly foolish person. 'Nuff said!

I think as long as Sony and other Full Frame mirrorless system manufacturers continue to make large fast lenses in place of smaller slower lenses MFT still has a benefit. My Sony A7RIII with 35mm f/2.8 Sony/Zeiss lens is approximately the same bulk as my old Olympus MFT camera and 17mm f/1.8 lens. But there aren't many other FE lenses that prioritize small size over fast apertures. I think a complete line of small, slower, but very high quality primes for Sony or Nikon mirrorless would eliminate the size advantage of MFT.

I'm a Nikon guy using a D750. Too expensive for me to change systems, and a lack of energy or desire to do so.

But if I was starting from scratch? I'd go Micro 4/3. Most likely a Panasonic G9 since I am used to the SLR form factor. The Pan Lecia 25mm f/1.4 because I'm a 50mm guy. And the 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom and roll with a nested kit.


Footnote: I agree with John Camp regarding one of his comments in which he argued m4/3 should be focusing on size to take advantage of the smaller sensor, maybe like the recent Mac Mini? (hehe)

Hmmm, good points! If anything, M4/3 is the main reason I moved to digital. Started with an EPL1, soon upgraded to an EPL2, then an EM5, now a EM5MII and soon to become an EM1X when it finally pops out.
Together with adapters for all my other Nikkor and medium format lenses and the superb Oly 12-100/4 Pro, they let me cover everything. I can push the EM5MII up to 1600ISO and even higher in a jiffy, if/when needed, and still end up with very acceptable images. Sure: they cannot be enlarged to the size of a house. But neither do I want to do that. And no, I am definitely not a "pro" who needs split-microsecong focus times for "sports" photography.
So, m4/3 it is and it remains!

I can’t stand this current wave of video blogs. I find myself always returning to written blogs. Much easier to decide if you are going to read it all, and how much attention to give it. Video feels like the ultimate time waster.

Personally I think it is about sales mark up. It’sin thier best interest to sell a more expensive system, particularly when you consider the prices of the lenses. I have convinced a few of my photography students to buy micro four thirds, yet after the sales person got onto them they came back with a new full frame mirror less. Simply because the sales assistant made more money on the sale.

Micro Four Thirds is a beautiful system and I will continue to invest in it. The size advantage for me is huge. Recently I have been putting A2 prints out at my camera club talks. 16 x 16 inches square taken with various cameras: micro four thirds, medium format digital, and various iPhone ones. Rarely does anyone ever pick the differences. The vast majority consider them all Beautiful. For me, the advantages clearly out weigh the disadvantages with out very much compromise. I think the system is here to stay. Well, I sincerely hope so.

Lordy-Lou Mike, you've stepped in it this time. So much bile gets excreted in format wars that i'd say you are a brave man indeed.

Still it is a valid topic of arguably increased relevance just now. As ever, a wise functional and artistic choice is absolutely NOT the only consideration, but i've maintained a "horses for courses" portfolio since m4/3 came out (i.e, both m4/3 and FF for various appropriate uses).

M4/3's recent problem has been the sharp slow-down in sensor improvement. Your beloved 20mp sensor -- which is modestly IQ competitive with, say, APSC sensors in every dSLR on a CostCo pallet -- has even now only been adopted by handful of bodies of the upper end m4/3 models.

i gave up on m4/3 two years ago -- unwilling to spring for a OM-1 mk ii's weight or tariff -- and have been using consumer APSC dSLR as my light kit ever since. It was cheaper and lighter (if bulkier) than an equally lens-ed (is that a word?) m4/3 and has, to sure, an excellent sensor that is an improvement on any 16mp m4/3's.

Yet i voted with my dollars last week and have acquired another m4/3 in a small RF style. i dearly missed using a few of my m4/3 lenses (both primes and the wondrous Oly 12-40) and the overall kit is still more compact than APSC, if not assuredly lighter.

Thus i do not think m4/3 is dead for my needs. Yet there is no question that Tom Hogan is right about its lack of sales performance relative to the market and that is a very bad sign. On the other hand, the same Thom Hogan preaches lens-richness as a key to system viability and THAT is one attribute that m4/3 has. Thus consumers must have what they view as a good reason to shun it.

No question overall declining camera sales normally would portend vendor consolidation and m4/3 would likely fail in that environment. It seems to be mainly cultural reasons why this mechanism hasn't happened yet. Still the system's viability isn't stable in this environment and future innovation is likely to dry-up unless sales improve.

Oly clearly hasn't gotten the memo yet: happy day for consumers!

-- gary

I remember Northrup pushing f-stop equivalency theory years ago. I decided there and then that he was not to be trusted and I have ignored his Youtube channel ever since.

Thorpe, on the other hand, is a reasonable chap.

Just because someone writes a blog or a vlog doesn't mean they know what they are talking about let alone have precognition. There is so much rubbish online now that it's becoming pointless to look. The antidote to this is your splendid blog Mike.

Here is what Mike said about this topic a decade ago:

Friday, 22 February 2008
Sensor Sizes


Saturday, 23 February 2008
Sensor Sizes Part II


They read like they were written yesterday.

I have not gone full frame. However, I purchased a Canon 7D Mark II and appropriate lenses for some photographs I am going to make over the next few years. It is only APS-C and it is big and heavy. Too big and heavy to be honest with you. The lenses are bigger and heavier too. Unless I am photographing sports or similar action, I pick up the lighter, smaller, and very capable E-M1 every time. Images don't look different. I keep thinking I should have purchased an E-M1 Mark II instead. I am very happy with Micro 4/3.

No idea why such a robust system would go away but, it won't matter to me; I never bought into the system choosing instead the Fuji approach with APS-C sensor that actually felt more compact to me than most of the micro 4/3 offerings when I wanted to downsize from my D700 for travel. Actually, when I looked at both systems 5 years ago, I was surprised at their (m4/3) bulk which tipped me in the direction of Fuji. Over the years I have accumulated several lenses from the 2 I bought initially (18-55 zoom and 35 mm f/1.4) and I would not leave for anything short of Fuji going bankrupt and abandoning the system. That said, given its success, I would be surprised if micro 4/3 went away.

I’ve been using APS-C since 2008. This year I went to Micro 4/3. My old body could no longer support the weight of the larger format. I haven't found any reason to regret my decision. I still have the APS-C system. I think of it now as my studio camera. Too bad I don’t have a studio.
Every time I use the Micro 4/3, I get a warm fuzzy feeling, because I bought it through the links on the right.
I’m with Thorpe.

Hi Mike,

Micro 4/3 might be killed off by a series of fixed lens cameras...using a m4/3 sensor. If and only if they were smaller, lighter, more pocket-able, etc, than their ILC counterparts. Meanwhile, back in reality, the huge array of lenses and bodies in every conceivable size, weight, and level of UI complexity makes m4/3 close to perfect for most people, most of the time.

If Panasonic, for instance, produced a pair of rangefinder style cameras in an ultrawide and a normal, and a 4/3 type fast superzoom, that might do it. E.g. a 21mm-e SWC type camera, a Kodak-Retina style collapse-able 40mm-e f/1.4, and a long-but-not-heavy 55-250mm-e f/2-f/2.8, that might do in m4/3. But I don't know how much I would complain. You can see the room for experimentation here - m4/3 is just big enough for good dynamic range and just tiny enough that you might be able to work miracles with small lenses and bodies. Imagine, for instance, a take on the Olympus XA, but with a m4/3 sensor!

(Happy Thanksgiving!)

Maybe I've been to Oshkosh (EAA) too many times ... I see Northrup and Thorpe, and I immediately think military planes and homebuilts.

The death of Micro Four Thirds is of course the inevitable consequence of my deciding to concentrate on that, and drop my Nikon system, last fall. My tastes nearly always work that way in the market.

However, M43 hasn't come anywhere near close to catching up with 2008 (or at least 2009) full-frame; my em1mkII doesn't do as well at high ISO and doesn't do continuous or tracking AF nearly as well as my D700 did. It's a tradeoff I can live with, overall, but I know which side of those particular tradeoffs I'm living in.

I’ve not watched (read?) either party’s thesis on the subject. But I have to admit that I do not see a bright future for M4/3. Yes it’s compact and lightweight, has established some wonderful inventories of fine, relatively affordable lenses, has bodies that have feature sets to meet any amateur’s (and most vocationals’) needs, and can produce adequate resolution and image quality for nearly any application.

But I don’t see it making much sense as a strategic product line for Panasonic or Olympus any longer. The economics of camera systems have changed drastically as the market has saturated and and expectations have become more demanding. For nearly the same money as a top-line M4/3 system I can buy into a full-frame mirrorless system that produces a much wider range of better results. And let’s face it: the M4/3 sensors really haven’t improved very much over the years. Camera firmware has been able to eke every drop of goodness and resolution from them but there are probably no drops left today. Plus it’s a system that’s closed to two manufacturers. Why would you put more money into lenses that have nowhere else to go besides the “other” camera brand?

So my opinion is that M4/3 will be around for at least a few years as a good “value” system. The lenses will enjoy a secondary market for a while, too. But it will increasingly become marginalized and probably discontinued by 2025-2027. The system camera market isn’t growing and there are just too many better products chasing the shrinking pool of buyers.

My Panasonic GX85 w/25mm (50mm equivalent) f/1.7 weighs 1.2 pounds. A Nikon Z6 w/50mm f/1.8 weighs 2.4 pounds. Twice as much and three times the cost. Micro 4/3 is not going anywhere.

Micro four-thirds needs more publicity so as to break down consumer resistance and profit oriented sales push by retailers promoting APSC and FF systems. Once the mental barriers in the public mind have been demolished, the myriad benefits of M43 will become obvious to any prospective buyer, especially one fed up of lugging around a backpack weighing several kilos.
A friend of mine who has a well respected prosumer 18-MP sensor APSC DSLR got a rude shock recently when he saw what my M43 system was capable of producing, provided the light levels weren't too low or the subject was reasonably still. Heck, I have a shot I took with my Epl5 and El Cheapo 40-150mm lens of the twin peaks of Nanda Devi at 5.30 PM on a cold November evening at dusk, ISO 500, 300mm (equiv.)handheld at 1/50th sec.
Last but not least, the ease of use leaves most other systems tossing in its wake. I can never go back to APSC, no matter what the allurement.

Mike, I think you're right. I can't abide most of the vloggers, all I want to hear from is you, Kirk Tuck, Thom Hogan and that's it.
I understand that m4/3 isn't perfect just as I don't think my Nikon D3 is perfect, but there are situations where I still keep and use the D3, but I also use my Panasonic GX7 and Olympus D5ii. I'm not so warm and fuzzy with the Oly, as it's menus are too much for me. It has returned the old pejorative inscrutable. But for many things, the m4/3 is as good. I can take things up to at least 13x19, and I'm about to experiment with 17x25, where I think it will do well.
Remember when there were a lot of photographers that looked down their noses at 35mm? Look what happened there!
And as I'm old enough to remember that, I'm also old enough to be over carrying around the weight of the full frame system all the time.

Tony is a smart man and usually right about many things. The problem of YouTube reviewers that make it big is that they lose interest in the equipment the common photographer would buy and focus on the sexy stuff at the top end. Right now that means full frame. I'm saying Tony is a victim of his own well deserved and hard earned success.

The fatal flaw in Tony's argument is that he compares top end Micro 4/3 cameras that cost 2000 dollars to bottom end FF cameras at the same price. Over 80% of the market is buying at less than 1500 dollars for a camera, and that leaves FF completely out of the picture except for discontinued models.

Small sensor APS-C is the real competition for Micro 4/3. Fuji is the only contender right now - no one else has enough wide angle lenses to compete. Can Micro 4/3 survive the onslaught from Fuji? That's the only relevant battle going on in mirrorless right now.

Then again, as Mike pointed out in a previous post, 24x36mm is an incredibly resilient format.

As a segue from the Victorians: this is where the expression "saved by the bell" comes from, I think.

It's all down to clicks and the fight for viewers - money making not sensible photographic talk.

I love using m4/3rds. The Panasonic bodies work in the way that I expect them to, with menus that make sense to me.

I moved back to m4/3rds a year ago, selling off all my Nikon full frame gear. My shoulder and arms are grateful as I'm not getting younger. The total weight of the camera plus lenses is much lighter.

I would like to think that m4/3rds will last me out. A few new bodies in the future and there are already enough lenses out there to keep me going.

I will only rarely watch an online video, and only then if there is NO other way to get the needed information. Videos are for the illiterate, IMHO.

To be fair, I don't absorb orally-presented information very well. I read fairly fast and can re-read the parts I want to better understand. AND I can skip the parts I don't care about.

Re m4/3, I've had several and moved away only because Olympus would not put a viewfinder in the RF body style. Panasonic did, but I didn't take to those bodies.

Lately, I've seriously looked at returning to m4/3, due to lack of IBIS from Fuji. However, my unfounded, but still present, "small-sensor" predjudice keeps quietly nagging at me to stay the course.

M4/3 should be awesome. It had so much going for it when I picked up a GF3 and the 14 and 45 lenses. And then...

Huge bodies. No 10mm lens from anybody. Sensor development essentially paused with bodies costing more than seemed rational.

So I’m in APS-C. Probably forever.

I just bought a g9 and some lenses through Mike's b and h portal so what follows may be motivated reasoning. The reasoning that the M4/3 sensor is to small relative to full frame is strong; particularly if noise at a iso of 800 is like a razor across your eyes.

Then I looked at some reviews on youtube comparing the pixel 3 and the iphone xs. Also, Mark Hobson's website has been mostly pictures from the Xs. The pictures are remarkably good. From a tiny sensor. The thing that's going to save M4/3 and APS is computational photography that's being used in the new flagship phones. If it ever gets to regular cameras.

YouTube seems to be overrun with vloggers who think that super high ISO ability, fast continuous autofocus tracking and very shallow depth of fields are absolutely essential for photographers. Of course, we need full frame cameras to achieve the first and last functions. The facts that such things didn't exist until recent years, and photographers got along just fine are irrelevant.

Also, the fact that M43 cameras are so much smaller and lighter, and that they can produce lovely prints at larger sizes than most photographers ever make are also completely irrelevant.

I really like the size and ergonomics of M4/3 bodies, the in camera IBIS, and the jewel like prime lenses. I have to say, though, if Fuji every comes to their senses and brings out an XT body with IBIS they will blow M4/3 out of the market. I'm still waiting for your H1 review Mike, but, I find the size and battery life to be large limitations. But an XT4 with IBIS? I would sell all my M4/3 gear.

Also, despite all the hoopla and money made on the "Jurassic Park" franchise, I think that "The Great Train Robbery" was Michael Crichton's best book by far.

The reason Fuji is not in my bag is the lenses. No not the quality of the lenses but the price of the lenses.

I shoot with an "old" Oly E-P5" (ahead of it's time and under appreciated it was) and I have 4 M/43 primes from 14mm to 45mm purchased new and used for a total of about $800. Try to buy 4 used Fuji primes for $800.

As for better high ISO with an APS sensor? Sure at least a stop but I can get similar shutter speeds and DOF at F4 ISO 400 as the aps can at 5.6 ISO 800. (yes tested) Not exact math but close.

Don't get me wrong I love Fuji Products but for my budget the M/43 makes a lot more sense.

"One could argue that FF and APS-C was a historical accident, and there wasn't enough real-world advantage to separate them once FF became viable."

I'd argue the current price delta between equivalent cameras is too small. The A7III and similar high-quality, $2000 cameras means that very few if any APS-C cameras should be more than $1,200 or maybe $1,300. Yet manufacturers keep making them.

We're also not seeing the proper integration of phones and cameras (a common Thom Hogan theme). Modern cameras ought to have APIs, app stores, etc., and they don't. So who is going to buy them? People obsessed with image quality, or perceived image quality, and that drives the FF market.

Big believer in micro 4/3 here too. Went to Olympus for the in body image stabilization, fast focus, and light and compact form factor when the first models came out years ago. For the vast majority of hobbyists who do not make a living from their photography, the image quality is good enough in that it is far superior to any film I grew up on. Since then, I've actually bought and tried out a Fuji XT20 and a Canon M50 to see if I could go back to a larger system for a few minor improvements and quickly realized I'd be given up a lot of the benefits of the micro 4/3 system to get there. Both of those cameras were sold within a few months and I am a true believer of micro 4/3 after the experience. The reality is that no camera is perfect and you need to find a system to touches the big items you want...and then get out there and use it rather than fixating on the non-existent perfect camera.

The history of photography shows a steady progression in the most commonly used image formats with smaller formats progressively replacing larger formats once the smaller format can start to deliver "good enough" image quality. I can't think of a single instance where that trend has been reversed. The larger formats tend to survive for special purposes, the smaller formats become the new "general purpose" format.

I don't see the historical trend reversing with full frame killing off micro four thirds. I can see micro four thirds losing its current place as a general purpose format but it will lose it to a smaller format, not a larger one. All of the talk about the superiority of full frame because of its ability to deliver shallower depth of field points to the fact that full frame is starting to be considered as a format with specialised uses and less as the general purpose format it was. It's not going to die out, just as view camera formats haven't died out, but it's not going to retain its place as the smallest professional quality general purpose format. Every format which has occupied that place before full frame and there have been several, all progressively smaller than the previous one, has been replaced and that's going to happen fo full frame as well.

The history of photography suggests that either micro four thirds or APSC will replace full frames the most commonly used general purpose format and full frame will increasingly become a format for special purposes. I'd rather bet on history repeating itself than on Tony Northrup.

With all the speculation about the eventual death of M4/3, let's take a step back and consider what happened to 4/3. History may not repeat, but it rhymes.

If I am pixel peeping at higher ISO than my easily swayed brain wants to use my Sony 7III. If I'm pixel peeping at low ISO that same brain says to use my sd Quatto H. If I'm going to be taking portraits of any kind, but particularly black and white I grab my Fuji X-H1.

BUT if I just want to grab a camera to go take pictures, and my pixel peeping brain is not interfering, I grab my olympus M1, not even the II version, which feels great in my hand, takes photos I don't have to turn into computer projects, and prints lovely to any size I need, even after cropping. (And you can pick up a great condition used M1 for under $500.)

So I understand the problem in that I don't really want to own four different systems - I'm not wealthy so it is a dumb investment. But in spite of myself, I occasionally become concerned about the limitations of M43. I'm almost certainly just allowing myself to be conned by the inexorable Gear Acquisition System Machine.

For those with deep pockets it's a fun hobby, arguably better than maintaining four barely street-legal sports cars in their garage, but for us other 98% this is maybe a problem.

And if you start comparing, as Mike and others have done, what a current better M43 camera can do compared to 10-15 years recent highest-end cameras then the entire house of cards blows away in a light breeze.

On the manufacturers' side I agree that it will probably take more tricks and features on M43 cameras to fight the apparent limitations - like Jay Reeds suggestion above that computational photography may provide the edge - although that will raise the same hackles with traditionalists as arrays of in-camera filters and effects already do.

I thought you didn't watch video reviews!

I sticking with mu4/3, but really it's the stupid phone that I use now. Not great, but it was in my pocket.

If I'm planning ahead, it's my E-PL6 with the 17mm f/1.8. Tried other lenses, but that's the one I like.

I only use m4/3s (except for an old p&s), have taken only one pic with my iPhone in the 2 years I've owned it. I don't see the need to move to a larger sensor, and I have a hard understanding why others want them so badly. There can't really be that many people that NEED more. We're an affluent culture though, people will always be convinced to buy better even if they only ever view their low-rez jpgs on uncalibrated monitors. It's why we buy very powerful cars with fantastic handling and mostly drive them on straight highways or sit in them at red lights. I am certain that the incremental benefits of larger sensors are real, I'm just not convinced that those benefits actually matter to most people.

Great points made and I'm way late to this discussion. No crystal ball here, however I spent many years in the semiconductor business and the economics there can get weird.

The big question for Micro 4/3 is what are the long-term prospects for continued innovation and manufacturing of Micro 4/3 sensors? Looking at a lot of the road maps I still get to see there is not a lot of R&D dollars going into the format and ever shrinking plant capacity. So in some ways it may not matter what Panasonic and Olympus want to do in Micro 4/3 if there are no sensors available. Thom brings up the excellent point that consumers vote with their wallets and vendors follow - however in digital cameras few camera makers are in control of their primary component. Having an equity stake in a Fab is rarely enough to call any shots. Fujifilm is consuming enough volume in APS-C that's safe for a while but long-term it might also face challenges.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the 50mp "medium format" world when Sony stops making the 50mp sensor next year - I suspect the favorable pricing we are seeing in part is the "sell all you can before the sensor goes away" frenzy to "lock in" system (er lens) customers for the future. Sony is dedicating their MF Fab to the 100mp for most of 2019. There is a complex relationship between consumer's wallets and Fabs. Mike, thank you for the engaging discussions - I've followed since the 37th frame days!

Every format has its uses but I suspect that FF digital may die first, that mirror thing is too noisy. My Pentax 67 can scare flocks of birds away - it's happened. Even the average DSLR can draw many shush 'es . But the little Pen F or the Fuji XT2 can be used in the quietest passages at a classical concert or at those once in a life time 'I Do ' moments. Mirrors take up space and are expensive to assemble, tedious to clean and demand heavy large lenses. Besides FF was just a step in the natural development of this great technically dictated art. The jump from the stretched rectangle of 35mm film to mirrorless with a series of sensitive sensible proportions is inevitable. The mirrorless advantages are just too numerous to compare with those mirror thingies anyway So Goodbye full frame may be not next week or next year but certainly it's digital days are numbered

At 200 ISO there's about a stop difference in dynamic range between a Panasonic G9 and a Sony A7*. These sensors are quite close in their performance.

* http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm

If in the end it all comes down to price, weight, and system options (lenses, flash), than m43 may have a hard time ahead. The m43 lenses may be a bit smaller and lighter, but they're definitely not cheaper. The 20 megapixel bodies are not substantially cheaper and can't be because they have similar CPU's, stabilisers, weatherproofing, manufacturing and so on.

Being just as expensive as full frame may not be a problem in itself, as most people willing to pay these amounts will look at it as a system purchase with hopefully more than five years of play time. Pana and Oly have to make sure potential buyers understand that a system is more than just the sensor (or having control over the sensor manufacturing, an oft repeated strawman in format wars). So small and light should very much remain the center of their marketing. Time for an upgrade of the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, don't you think :^)

What's weird is Olympus seemingly repeating its fourthirds trick of excellent "pro" lenses that not many people want or need and lead to comparisons and one-upmanship.

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