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Wednesday, 24 November 2021


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"I still consider 4/3—now Micro 4/3—as probably the ideal digital format when considered objectively and logically."

As you know, I'm with you. In the noughties I used a sinful amount of money on gear from Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. But after M4/3, I wanted nothing else. And I would have had no regrets except for the craze for full frame, which undermined interest. As you said yourself, FF is effectively today's large-format, and overkill for almost anything, and suboptimal for size and DoF.

Eolake Stobblehouse

... greater effective telephoto "reach," [of 4/3 cameras] which had been greatly prized by 35mm photographers ...

I've long been puzzled by this claim. Inside each and every full frame image is a 4/3 image waiting to be set free. In demanding situations the advantage of small size and lighter lenses has to be balanced against lower image quality delivered by a smaller sensor.

Speaking in generalities of course ...

[That's true of every single format. Why don't you just shoot with an 11x14 view camera? Almost every other format is "inside" it "waiting to be set free." The reason, obviously, is that the camera, lens, and especially the viewfinder, will be optimized on any camera for the format the camera is built for. This specious idea that FF is somehow "complete" and smaller formats are just "cropping" it is the Web's current addlepated enthusiasm. Ignore, ignore! Because after all, FF is just "cropping" 33x44mm "medium" format, mmm? Compared with 33x44, full-frame has "lower image quality delivered by the smaller sensor." --Mike]

The Whole Plate format (6.5"x8.5") has become my favorite for large format photography. Compositions that I see just seem to always fit into this format's ratio. Currently shooting whole plate film, scanning the negatives, making digital negatives, and then making Platinum/Palladium prints. Final prints a bit larger in size (than 6.5"x8.5").

I was a Nikon shooter (45 years +/-), but in 2011 I picked up an Olympus E-PL-1 kit to try out a mirrorless viewfinder. The 12MP image quality was OK, but I HATED that camera and remained a Nikon shooter.

A couple years later I bought a refurbished E-M5 from the Olympus website and started to fall in love. Olympus' image stabilization was the game changer for me -- it was wonderful on the E-M5 and has only improved since. My D800, to this day, produces better image quality than my newer m4/3 kit, but I now hardly use it. The m4/3 files are more than "good enough". I've made beautiful 15 x 20 prints on my Epson 3880. And they touch up beautifully (if needed) by running them through one of the Topaz AI programs.

I'm currently using an E-M1.2 and an E-M1X (for birds) with a variety of lenses, including the 300mm f/4. While a sensor upgrade would be great, I really hope for some upgrades to the autofocus which would help out with birds in flight. And, of course, I hope m4/3 will hold on and grow. All in all I'm happy with my gear and good to go for several years.

"The 4/3 format was almost identical in size to the 110 film format introduced by Kodak in 1972..."

For me, I know that all things are not equal, but there is the truth from the film world that a good big negative beats a good little negative. For some reason, I tried out the Pentax 110 system back in the very early '80s. It was well thought out and with several f/2.8 primes using the same two-to-one conversion that the 4/3 system uses today. I had a full 35mm system, but imagined a tiny system like the Pentax could allow me to always have a camera. Everything was great until it became clear that the absolute best image from the 110 could not equal even a mediocre shot from the 35mm camera. Then factor in the dearth of film choices and inability to easily home process the tiny strips of film and it was a short lived experiment.

I know intellectually that digital and film are not the same, but I still can't allow that small format to be held in the same regard as the APS-C and larger sensors.

Not counting a cheapy Kodak P&S, an Olympus E-510 was my first serious digital camera. While I have one inch and APS-C cameras, I still use two interchangeable lens M4/3 cameras. Earlier this month, I bought my self a birthday present in the form of a used Panasonic LX100.

I see advantages in larger and smaller sensor cameras, but love Four Thirds format. But, if I'm honest, I bought the E-510 because I was a long time Olympus usere.

4/3 had real advantages vs APS, but not to a compelling enough degree. To my recollection, it arrived just a bit too soon, in that ISO was still an issue, especially given that its makers were also working out how mirrorless could and should work and trying to sell that exotic concept as well. This was only briefly the case, but the damage was done.

Still, things might have played out differently were it not for two web-powered fads: measurebation and bokeh. It's ironic that Mike had a hand in the latter (I'm serious--don't underestimate the power of a catchy coinage, especially when it simultaneously names an elusive, near-mystical quality that's perfectly suited for connoisseur-ism, and gives measurebators yet another basis for ranking things).

That E-1 was a sweet camera, though; near perfect. Kinda wish the new/old Olympus would release a sequel, because today's sensors would complete its perfectitude.

As long as we're fantasizing, I wouldn't mind a larger sensor with a 4:3 aspect ratio. I might even consider that close to ideal.

Coincidentally ... Wirecutter (owned by the New York Times) just published, "The Best Mirrorless Camera."

o The best mirrorless camera for most people
o The best mirrorless camera for beginners
o The best mirrorless camera for serious photographers
o The best full-frame mirrorless camera ... about which they wrote, "the best full-frame camera for your money—if you’re willing to spend this much on a camera. Most people don’t need to."

So, which is best? It depends.

[That's an "update" of an older article. It's a bit beneath the dignity of the Times anyway, I think--just another one of those clickbait "best of" articles meant to draw searches and purchases. The recommendations are pretty standard, or rather, were so when the article was written. --Mike]

My memory of early Four Thirds history has two items I rarely see mentioned.

1) I am certain I recall that the 4/3 standard refers to the image circle and not the aspect ratio. Nothing prevented a manufacturer from producing a square sensor, for instance. I have only my memory to support this assertion. I would have loved a square and using the whole image circle.

2) I recall an Olympus executive saying their analysis of all factors suggested that the format was sufficient up to 20MP. Again, I couldn't find evidence of this if I tried.

The thing is, both of those are from the early days of 4/3. It is interesting to me that the sensors indeed plateaued at 20 MP.

I owned the E-1 and I believe that the kit lens was probably the best kit lens ever, the 14-54 2.8/3.5.

Most efficient use of a lens's image circle is a circle, as proposed by Photato here: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4577038. Many additional technical advantages as well in the post.

I'm still happily using 4/3 on a GH5 but I also bemoan the irrational turns taken everywhere. Persistence of standards is a well-known feature of economics, and yes, economics is more important than engineering here. Economics determines what the market will bear. It's the whole theory of network effects including complementary products, installed base etc.

In a nutshell, once standards (lens mounts, sensor sizes) and complementary products (lenses, flashes) are involved, a product becomes more valuable the more there is of it in the market. Why, because the camera w/o the lens is useless. The more lenses, the more flexibility, the more value.

But here, much of that network logic did not even need to apply. Major manufacturers stuck to their 24x36 optimized lens mounts simply to be able to use them for APS-C, which is barely making sense in terms of installed base and 3rd party add on logic because these lenses are now sub-optimal in many ways. 3/4 was started as a consortium in order to reach critical mass of installed base quickly but the members of the consortium were either slow or didn't stick to plan (Fuji). Meanwhile, classic manufacturers persuaded public opinion somehow to mentally tie "full frame" = "full quality" (nice marketing, reminiscent to "full flavor" vs "light" cigarettes) to APS-C, as if APS-C were somehow superior to 4/3. In reality, APS-C and 4/3 are quite similar in sensor size, and therefore low light potential, and DOF. And existing 24 x 36 optimized lenses ought to have been replaced by APS-C optimized lenses anyway, and were, for a time. Fast forward, now we're back to the full frame fetish, not that I really care, I just chuckle. Ah well.

Re. "…many 35mm film photographers prized long teles not so much because they needed them (which was what I always assumed) but because they were big and cool and expensive and hence, displayed status."

Oh my! Where did that conclusion come from? Probably some portrait shooter who never did any nature and wildlife photography!

[Why is it that all of a sudden people are accusing me of basing observations on one sample, on anecdotal evidence, or on personal practices? If and when I don't know what I'm talking about, I'll let you know. The fact that you might not be included in the word "many" in the sentence you quoted doesn't mean the sentence isn't true. --Mike]

"I was fooled there, however—many 35mm film photographers prized long teles not so much because they needed them but because they were big and cool and expensive and hence, displayed status."

I guess I dance to different drummers. I wanted, from the '60s, reach without "big and cool and expensive." I hated big, heavy and expensive. \;~)>

I'm in awe of my Oly 100-400 with 1.4x teleconverter — longer, faster and better optically than my mirror 1000/11 — waaay smaller, AF, IS and hand holdable.

[...Which is exactly how I thought all photographers would welcome 4/3. But only a few did. --Mike]

There is no perfect format, in the sense of avoiding cropping for composition.

I shoot both FF 3:2 and µ4/3. It seems to me I have less format adjusting to do in post with 4:3 format, and much less than I would have with square.

I guess that makes 4:3 my favorite — but I wouldn't choose a camera system over the difference.

Very interesting and insightful post "An Ideal Format" and I really liked the link to your earlier post "The Remarkable Persistence of 24x36". That is a great post!

I never really gave much thought to the 24x36mm 2:3 ratio. I when I first got interested in photography I started off with a 35mm film camera. a few years later when I started at my first newspaper, I used a 35mm Nikon camera and on through my career. Then eventually the newspaper I worked for went from film to digital with Nikon D1H cameras, even though the digital sensor was 23.7x15.6 it was still 2:3 format.

It wasn't until I took a more serious interest in making landscape pictures on my time off from my newspaper work with a 4x5 view camera, that I really came to love the image ratio of 4:5 especially for verticals as I thought that 35mm verticals looked too tall and skinny. I thought the 4:5 or 5:4 ratio was a more natural way of seeing as the human eye sees. I also found landscape compositions seemed to work better for me, as visual elements in the scene before me fell into place within the square more naturally.

After my newspaper career ended and I bought some of my own digital camera equipment and started using that to make my landscape pictures, I missed the 4:5 ratio of large format cameras. Interestingly my digital camera has options for various image ratios including 4:5. Although I tried using it I was using fixed focal length lenses and found that my 35mm lens was not wide enough when cropped down and I was losing megapixels. Lately, I have been using this older 35mm shift lens (no tilt) on my so-called "full-frame" digital camera so I can visualize my composition before me as a 5:4 ratio, then with the camera on a tripod I shift the lens down or up a few degrees or even sideways for a panoramic aspect, then stitch the photos together in photoshop with no loss of distortion and increased megapixels and I get my 5:4 ratio.

Anyway, each photographer has their favourite way of framing things up using their preferred image ratio.

I believe that you're correct about 4/3rds being an excellent format. It's right-sized for a daily camera, the lenses are small and typically quite good, and the circa-2016 20 MP sensor does quite well up to ISO 800 - 1200 for normal prints.

At 200 base ISO, large exhibition quality prints are feasible with a bit of care. I find that I use my Olympus cameras far more than my full-frame and APS-C cameras.

At this point, it's M4/3 plus 5x7 large format film. Between them, that covers all of the bases.

My ideal format would have a horizontal 1:√2 height-width ratio. Like the DIN paper formats A4, A5, A6 etcetera. Cutting those formats in two gives you halves with the same ratio. It is somewhere between 3:4 and the 2:3.
But who could have predicted that by far the most popular format for stills and video would become 9:16? Vertical!

[Ha! I had to think about that for a minute, but you're right. Although my iPhone photos are 4:3. --Mike]

Probably my comment is off topic, but I like the 4/3 aspect ratio much better than the legacy 3/2 format. For my taste, the latter is too panoramic in landscape orientation, and much too tall in portrait orientation.

Nowadays the vast majority of pictures are made on smartphone cameras, which have 4/3 aspect ratio, and this is certainly going to shape our conventions how a "real photograph" should look like. Probably a photograph in the 3/2 aspect ratio will once look quaint and "retro" just like a square image is perceived today. Much like for somebody used to a smartphone camera, a 50mm-e is not a "normal" lens, but a telephoto, and instead the 24mm-e to 28mm-e is "normal". As such, wide perspectives become more and more commonplace.

Best, Thomas

I cannot find an ideal format. I use several on my D850: 24x36, 20x30, 16x24, 24x30, 24x24. I have used them all several times. I also use 6x7 but that's on film and it is in my opinion the closest to an ideal format, but the weight of the equipment makes it less than ideal in practice.During several years I only used 6x6 and loved it too.

If I really want light, 4x3 on the iPhone is great.

Just my impression, but I think micro-4/3rds was done in by the perceived need by ardent gear-heads and hobbyists to own "the best" camera. The entire Internet culture of gear-oriented websites (lookin' at you, DPReview) with its hair-splitting score systems tends to drive people toward larger and newer sensors. Differences without a distinction, unless you're making very large prints. But when if you're planning an expensive purchase, you don't want buyer's remorse a year or two later because it's lacking some optimal feature. So you read the reviews and note that APS-C cameras eke out a bit more resolution than M 4/3rds, and 'full frame' a bit more than APS-C, and a bit better noise at higher ISO, and gosh I did take a few low light shots last year and... The final nail in the coffin has been the sluggish to non-existent sensor updates, when new and improved APS-C and full frame sensors showed up regularly.
No question, M4/3rds would optimally serve the needs of 90%+ of avid hobbyists and many professionals, with a much lighter bag of kit to carry. But it's just like car buying. 90% of buyers would be best served by a Honda Civic. But people end up buying a hulking SUV because "I might drive on a trail someday".

Having largely used 67 for the last few decades, what I'd really like is a FF sized 4/3 sensor, same height, narrower width. I find the traditional 3/2 ratio to be too wide.

For me one of the turn-offs of modern photography is the size of the lenses, especially full frame. Older 24’s, 28’s 35’s etc. were rather compact and yes one can still use those lenses but they are considered obsolete by many.
I had a Tamron 45 1.8 for Nikon which was the near the same size as a AFD 85 1.4. Image quality from that lens compared to the little nifty 50 I had was pretty much indistinguishable so what did I actually gain by purchasing the larger Tamron? A bit of IS I guess.
Unless a person has a legitimate reason for carrying around a big rig other than “I want one” then they might be better served using a system like the now mature M4/3 system.

I agree, 5 years ago 4/3rds was the logical sweetspot for digital photography (at least for my needs as a passionate photographer). However, things have moved on and now the smartphone is king. We're tantalisingly close to flat lens technology which will make imaging sensor size much less important, and ironically 4/3rds could become the ideal for smartphones too. You may be before your time in this prediction!

Couldn't agree more about this head-scratcher. Prejudice?

A propos of another: why is it that whereas ordinary folk take pictures (3 syllables), 'serious' photographers always 'capture images' (5). Are the latter penning sonnets and dashing off water-colours? Grr.

Love the blog!

I too find the m4/3 format to be the most rational format. As you stated, lens size is considerably smaller than either APSC or 24/36, along with the increased DOF which allows one to shoot at wider apertures, hence putting more light on the sensor at a given shutter speed and iso. When I shot 24/36 I had to use f3.5 or 4.0 to get reasonable DOF in certain situations, and now with m4/3 I get to shoot at f1.7 or 2.0, thus mitigating any quality differences between the two sensor sizes.

And yes, of course you can shoot your 24/36 camera at those same apertures, or wider and get even thinner DOF, and gather more light, but the lenses are then enormous and heavy. There are trade offs everywhere.

For someone, like me, who has to carry my gear all day, hours on my feet, less weight on my spine is a good thing. Although my chiropractor misses me, as he sees me a whole lot less now.

Aside from the great, small lenses that are more reminiscent size wise of my old film gear, but much lighter, the thing that really has won me over to m4/3 is the aspect ratio. Rarely does that get mentioned in the conversation. 4/3 lends itself so much better to the magazine pages that I shoot for, and for the print sizes that most people want to buy.

Being the first mirrorless system on the market, I could actually change the aspect ratio in the viewfinder and compose in a variety of formats. For web pages I routinely have to deliver 16/9 crops, and being able to see it in the finder is critical to making it work.

Up until 2013 when I made the switch to m4/3 I was still doing all of my personal work with a Hasselblad. The Lumix cameras allowed me to shoot square in the camera, and with the introduction of the GH3, the quality difference between 120 film and m4/3 became inverted, whereas the digital actually looked better than the Imacon scans of my color negative film. Since then, I've embraced m4/3 and never looked back.

There is plenty that one can do with m4/3, and in reality it's more than enough performance for everything I need it to do. I photograph people for advertising, marketing, editorial, web, billboards, wall wraps, theatrical posters, basically everything. I'm super critical about my work, and have very high expectations from what I use, and so far, I've not been let down by m4/3.

I suspect that those that find it lacking and who blame the camera or think they need a bigger sensor or more pixels, probably are not getting all they can due to their technique.

The thing about m4/3 that is most galling to people is that it is sufficient and rational. Most people are not satisfied with either, and more is always better, especially in America, and among the wealthy people who buy gear. Why settle for sufficient when there's bling available?

Photo gear, like cars, motorcycles, computers and audio gear, suffers from the same lack of critical thinking about what one actually needs. Do most people really NEED a gigantic SUV? No. I realize I'm an outlier, I use a small sensor camera, drive a manual transmission Honda FIT, and ride a Royal Enfield 650. Each of these is at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of prices, size and performance, and each of these is more than sufficient for me to get me where I'm going and allow me to have fun along the way. And with each of these choices, I get to use every bit of the performance available, but each takes skill, and you have to put in the time to develop that skill. Most people don't have the patience for that. They prefer to mash the gas, twist the throttle, or push the button and have it all, right now, no waiting.

For me, being able to use what I have is far more satisfying than having to pay for and maintain something with far more performance, size, weight and complexity than I'll ever need or be able to use. If my pictures aren't good enough, the problem is staring me in the face when I look in the mirror, not in what is slung over my shoulder or in my camera bag.

I've been with MFT since the GF1 and currently have three cameras and enough lenses to cover just about everything I want but I do miss the extra DR I get from FF Sony A7 and I do think it's noticeable in the real world, rather than it just being something that bothers me. Plus I use film era lenses on my A7 and I think they're best on FF as the give the FoV I'd expect.

So FF mirrorless is best for me and with a compact prime the combination is not all that much bigger than MFT and a similar lens.

I do like the 4/3 format for portrait orientation pictures though.

In film photography the physical limitations of the capture format played a much larger role in how the final picture looked than it does in digital photography. This is true for a number of reasons, but it is mostly true because most film pictures need to be physically magnified in order to look at them and in some sense this is less true for digital pictures.

Digital pictures are also a hybrid beast that combines the physical characteristics of a sensor (pixel size, noise characteristics, sensitivity, amplification, and so on) with software specifically designed to overcome those physical limitations.

All of this makes questions of "format" harder to pin down. It's not *necessarily* the case anymore that always going bigger means you will be able to make (say) higher quality prints, because if the software pipeline attached to the larger sensor is not doing its job your results will not be as good as on a smaller camera.

I used m4/3 cameras for a long time because they combined wonderful small lenses with an imaging pipeline that was reasonably close to the systems using larger sensors and thus needing larger lenses. But, eventually I got tired of the Olympus sensors never getting any better, and the Nikon (and more importantly) iPhone machines got a lot better so I used the excuse of the hood and filter ring detaching themselves from a favorite and expensive telephoto lens to go back to Nikon (+iPhone).

But back to my other point: the relative dominance of the phone cameras for general use really speaks to the combination of software and hardware being the dominant factor in how nice a digital camera is to use. This is also what accounts for the lack of "logic" in the sensor development space. The Foveon sensor architecture might make a certain intuitive sense, but the final integrated product was, for various reasons, not really any better, and probably in some ways worse, than Bayer sensors. m4/3rds is a nice size for great lenses, but without the big players pushing the hardware/software forward, ultimately it falls down.

So anyway. My answer to this question is the same as my answer for cameras. The ideal format is the smallest one you can get away with.

I was an early adopter of 4/3s with the E-1 and now use m4/3s so I'm already sold. I also won't go into all the history but one thing that sticks out at me is why full-frame persists in the sports/action world. Canon doesn't even bother making high end bodies and lenses in their APS/C mirrorless M mount. Given that content ends up mostly online, there are a lot of pixels being thrown out. Don't people want lighter cheaper gear?

Of course the capabilities of the top-end DSLR and new mirrorless bodies are amazing, but those capabilities could just as easily be programmed into smaller sensor bodies. Except for Olympus, they just chose not to do so.

If full-frame bodies were the size and weight of a Pentax MX (or even LX), no problem, I'd buy those too. But they're not. People do a lot of whining about price vs performance but it's pretty obvious that people just have a lot of money and like to spend it. How else can you explain the migration to mirrorless from DSLRs, those buying decisions are not related to sensor size.

This is a pretty gripy post, complete with digs. It might just be better to admit, with grace, that you were wrong. Part of that is that you stubbornly refuse to admit that limitations to focus separation, which goes hand in hand with the smaller sensor, are one of its major downfalls, and having this flexibility is why many prefer to stick with 36x24 (FF) sensors, as the best compromise. This is what many of your readers have referred to as 'equivalence' of aperture signifying exactly that limitation in M43 sensors.

Getting the equivalent of the focus separation of a bog standard FF 50/1.4 requires a 25/1,0 on M43, which will almost certainly be bigger than the FF 50/1.4, be heavier, and more expensive to boot. Mitigating any size advantage of the smaller sensor cameras. Obviously, that is only one example of fairly common lenses for FF cameras being unavailable or too expensive for M43. 35/1.4, 50/1.2, 85/1.4 being others (1.2 and even .95 are available in FF if you really want them).

No doubt software computation could comensate for this, if the M43 body makers chose to go in that direction, but so far they have not, suggesting that it is expensive or difficult to implement.

Of course, greater depth of field is also often desired, but that can usually also be achieved on FF cameras without many disadvantages. I am not trying to argue that M43 does not have any positive, or even advantageous features - I would far rather carry an M43 long telephoto for bird photography than a FF equivalent, and for macro photography M43 is probably the best system.

I don't expect you to post this comment, as I have the impression you do not like dissent from your views.

[You consider "focus separation" a virtue and I don't, that's all. Far more of the pictures I see these days are ruined by too little d.-o.-f. than by too much. --Mike]

I like the 4:3 ratio and often crop a larger 2:3 image to the aforementioned. But continuous tracking has become my default AF setting and the Panasonics don’t do it well enough. Still, I appreciate the smaller 4/3 gear and use it in unrestrained street environments in hopes of not drawing the attention of purloiners.

As a long term large and medium format photographer, I own and have always liked the
M 4/3rd's format. As a professional, I always considered the 4X5/8X10 frame size to be ideal. I never used 35mm in an entire 40 year career for more than a few odd shots, and personal work, and never liked the aspect ratio.

I've heard enough "clap-trap" from the overly educated about the "golden mean", or whatever else they want to talk about, FF 35mm is a crap format: it isn't pleasing on the wall, or with the body for portraits, and it's only a "half-assed" panoramic aspect.

When it comes to "size of equipment" M 4/3rd's was the true inheritor of what was supposed to be the appropriate size for a "journalistic" type camera. I've seen FF 35mm cameras that are larger and heavier than my Hasselblad with a normal lens and back. Ridiculous...

Olympus and Panasonic could have controlled the market if they had built a more easily "hand-hold-able" M4/3rd's body, that was maybe 15%-20% larger (but thinner of course), and metal, could have just used the OM-1 body, remade thinner. And, they could have appealed to "pros" and the more photo educated by limiting the settings on multiple screens, which no one uses. Kept the settings to the bare minimum, and make the actually process of setting stuff more intuitive. Also make constantly changed settings, like color and ASA: center-lock dials on the back of the camera.

The lenses were great, the correct size, and maybe just needing a little more robust build.

All water under the bridge.

I'm still shooting it, and since I'm "semi-retired" really don't care. If I won the lottery, i'd be skipping ASP-C and FF entirely, and moving to the "medium format" stuff, thankfully also 8X10 aspect ratio!

For travel I would take my Olympus Pen-F system over full-frame because the weight savings outweigh any gains from the larger sensor. However, I would more than often take my Leica Q2 instead of the Pen-F! (I love fixed-lens cameras of which the Q2 is the best I've used.) Which highlights (for me) the issues I have with the Olympus - menu/EVF/touchscreen/control dials rather than the (excellent) quality of the lenses, the great IBIS and lack of problems with dust on the sensor. Fix those (please) and it would be my ideal format for most of my photography.

4/3 has always been enough for me. I prefer the aspect ratio too.

Um, to be blunt, this statement

*I was fooled there, however—many 35mm film
photographers prized long teles not so much
because they needed them (which was what I
always assumed) but because they were big
and cool and expensive and hence, displayed status.

is essentially an insult to the intelligence of many users of those lenses. Longer focal lengths allow greater magnification (from reality onto the sensor) for a given subject-to-lens distance, That is their great advantage and one that can't be achieved any other way. The optical formula is:

m = F/(u - F) where m is the magnification
u is the lens-subject distance
F is the len's focal length

Note that sensor size does NOT appear in that formula. Where sensor size does appear is in the formula for field of view

FoV = 2 arctan < S/(2(m+1)F)> where S is the sensor size
and m, F as above

(side note: since these lenses are most often used at large subject-to-lens distances, m has a very small value and the (m+1) term is thus essentially equal to 1 and can be removed with little loss of accuracy. With the (m+1) removed, the FoV formula returns the FoV at infinity focus, where m is, by definition, zero).

Using a smaller sensor does not increase the size of the image on the sensor (m is the same, given u and F are) and so has no increase in "reach." What using a smaller sensor does is cut down on your field of view. That, in turn, has two deleterious effects:
a. makes it harder to track while panning
b. makes it harder to avoid "cutting off" tail, wingtip, or beak from the image of a flying bird.

Composition is changed, and it's arguable if that's "good" or "bad" (composition is an artistic quantity, not a scientific one).

The statement about depth of field is also false. Depth of field (DoF) is

DoF = 2Nc(m+1)/(m^2) where N is the f/ratio and c is the
size of the circle of confusion,
and ^2 indicates the square of m.

Again, sensor size does not appear in that formula. c is what counts for image quality (how big the depth-of-field blur is), and N is usually set as low as possible to get shutter speed up and thus cut down on motion blur (the real killer, not depth of field). Shoot with the same lens (set at the same N) at the same subject-to-lens distance, and require the same c, and the DoF is the same.

In addition, if the smaller sensor has smaller pixels (the usual case) then the achievable dynamic range is less. For a given voltage, you can store just so many electrons (Q = CV) and C, the capacitance, is a function of area. This never seems to get mentioned by smaller-sensor-camera mfrs, but is nonetheless true. Signal (electrons stored due to optical light from the subject) to Noise (electrons due to dark current, cosmic rays, etc) ratio is also lower.

Put bluntly, this "better DoF, more reach" hogwash is marketing hype by manufacturers and camera vendors to make smaller sensor cameras appear more attractive to buyers, touting "advantages" that don't exist while conveniently ignoring real downside factors.

The statement about image circle of the lens is valid. It's easier to make a lighter lens (of the same quality) if it's target value for image circle is smaller. Coupled with a smaller, lighter camera, this can be a big advantage, especially for smaller, lighter, not as strong, photographers (not me: I'm one of those big, ugly, hairy guys over six feet in height. My statement is based on conversations with others, specifically smaller women bird photographers).

End of rant. Steam is no longer blowing out my ears...

[Your optical calculations might be correct but your arguments are specious. A smaller format does not change composition if you know how to choose the proper lens for your subject given the format of your camera! And it's perfectly proper to talk about telephoto reach because, again, you're talking about the specific format your camera was made for--for which that camera's lenses and viewfinder were designed.

Think of it in terms of angle of view instead of magnification and you'll have a better handle on it. --Mike]

While we may all have favorite formats (mine is m4/3) the question is becoming somewhat irrelevant, because most people who have been photographing for a while understand that for some subject matter, some formats are better than others. And the question becomes irrelevant because with high resolution cameras (like the Sony a7R IV with 61 megapixels) you have the choice of several aspect ratios and really don't suffer much of a penalty when you use a crop mode -- the APS-C mode on the a7R IV is 26 megapixels. I'm not really interested in doing a bunch of research to figure out what APS-C cameras have more than 26 megapixels, but I suspect it's not many, if any at all. (Because I'm a Nikon shooter, I know the relatively new Nikon Z fc is about 21mp.) I thinking asking what aspect ratio you like best is becoming something like asking what shutter speed you like best, the answer being, "for what conditions and purpose?"

Side note about the aspect ratio rather than the format... I didn't use 4:3 until I started with a Fuji GFX camera. In film I never used 645 cameras so I had no experience with 4:3, and in digital I'd previously only used 3:2.

I'm glad Fuji went with 4:3 for GFX. It's a very pleasing aspect ratio. The strange thing is now that I shoot 4:3, I find it difficult to shoot 3:2 with the GFX's little sibling, my X-T2.

Yes, I know I can crop the X-T2 frame. But that's not how I work! I do wish Fuji would surprise us with a firmware update that provides in-camera 4:3 for the X cameras. Perhaps there are technical barriers, or more likely, very few people care about it as much as I do.

In my very humble opinion, Olympus and Panasonic, especially with the introduction of the Micro Four Third format version, are the two manufacturers that have fully understood the meaning of a complete (ILC) compact camera and lens system.
What has happened after that is a marketing recuperation for larger camera size on the assumption that big is always better, no discussion. The rest of the debate has become futile...

Well this is one of the few articles that I have read here, with which I disagree with to certain extent.

I discovered the M43 format back in 2014, when I picked up a little GF3 to use for work. It was a fun little camera and I took some nice pictures with it. Quite soon after I needed to replace my dying D300 and I was convinced to buy an EM5. My Nikon stuff was traded in for a M43 set up.

Again the EM5 seemed with the Panasonic 2.8 zooms was a big step forward for me, and was brilliant for hiking and travel. The advantages outweighed the disadvantages that I came across.

I agree for what most of us do, the M43 system was probably the best choice for a certain period of time until the advent of FF mirrorless.

Personally I began to feel the system was not moving forward in any meaningful way. Gizmos and dubious features were added, but the sensor technology improvements seemed very slow moving.

Meanwhile other formats seemed to be progressing and FF mirrorless was becoming more affordable. An encounter with my dealers with a Z7 ended my time with M43, just as the encounter with the.

My current Z travel kit weighs not much more than my old M43 travel kit. I have no problems hiking with my 24-200 and 14-30 each with a Z7 behind the lens. I really feel my current kit is a big step forward in many tangible ways when I explore our old Italian cities and monuments

But the advantage of the FF sensor are enormous. Shadow recovery is much better, and the tonal and colour transitions are noticeably smoother. Gone is that gritty look I always got with M43 even at base ISO. IBIS in my Z7 is as good as what I had in my EM5. The DoF issues with FF in my opinion are somewhat overblown in practice.

I would hazard to say that for those of us who want a system for general non specialized photography, like travel, street and so forth, the mirrorless FF systems are the best choice right now.

When Micro 4/3 came out, sensor performance was considerably poorer than it eventually became in the 2010's. 24x36 sensors were barely adequate, and smaller than 24x36 sensors had real, readily observable limitations on dynamic range, signal to noise ratio, etc.
Micro 4/3 had another problem in addition to opposition from more powerful interests and market forces: If they made a camera sized to match the needs of the sensor's small size, the camera was too small for adult human hands to operate conveniently. If they made the camera body big enough to accommodate the necessary professional-level controls and to be easily operable for adult hands, the body would be large enough to house a larger sensor. So...why not go with a larger sensor? That's what I concluded about 30 seconds after I first handled an Olympus EM-1 at the local photo dealer.

I have been conflicted for a long time around formats, both aspect ratio and sensor size. I started in photography, like so many of us, with 35mm film and then really didn't think much about the 3:2 ratio and how horizontals look like panos and verticals just look skinny.

I then moved to 4x5 film and loved it, also 6x6. The square format works so well for so many things that I use it frequently now even though I know I'm "throwing away" pixels. If I had to have only two aspect ratios, it would be 4x5 and square, 3:2 just seems strange. My OCD still makes it hard to throw away those pixels though so a lot of my work is 3:2 anyway. I try to avoid 3:2 verticals when I can.

Regarding sensor size, I've always tried to use the most "real estate" that I could manage and/or afford. I had a nice micro 4/3 camera for a while but when I realized it had noise even at base ISO, I moved to APS-C. I was pretty happy with that but eventually developed megapixel lust, went to full frame and never looked back. I flirted with the idea of medium format but found Phase One and Hasselblad too expensive and too fidgety. When Fuji arrived on the scene with the GFX cameras, I thought that might be the answer, but compared to my current Sony system, the lenses were too few, too big and heavy and a bit expensive. With my current system and the too many lenses I now have, there's very little limiting my photographic potential. I am clearly the limiting factor.

Been shooting Four Thirds (Olympus) for 12 years and still like the images I get. The pro lenses are very sharp and fast, and the file sizes are good for my elderly computers. I don't print wall sized nor shoot in near darkness so the system does what I need. Pity it got crushed in the megapixel/dynamic range wars.

You are forgetting the other half of format. It is not only about size, but also about shape. Four thirds is very close to the many ‘ideal formats’ developed over the years. It is close to 6x4.5 especially when the 6 is actually 5.5. It is same as Fuji’s 6x8, and indeed same as the new Fuji and Hasselbad small medium format 33x44mm. It is also close to 4x5, and actually the same as the European version of that format 9x12 (c/m). It is a very good format for general photography.

There is no perfect format, in the sense of avoiding cropping for composition.

I shoot both FF 3:2 and µ4/3. It seems to me I have less format adjusting to do in post with 4:3 format, and much less than I would have with square.

I guess that makes 4:3 my favorite — but I wouldn't choose a camera system over the difference.

In my view, 5x6 offers the optimum area/circumference ratio without being « too square (which is a nightmare for composition). Thus the relationship of objects to one another within the image space nicely dominates over their relationship to the edges.

If you are good at it (I’m not) probably better to just show friends and family your photographs. If anyone asks what camera you are using just give a wave of the hand and say, Oh, a digital camera. Then change the subject.

As an "Ideal Format" user since 2004 when I bought an E-1 and lenses, I have certainly had periods where I figured I'd come to the end of my time with 4/3 and started to research other formats but every time I do that, at some point, I end up realizing that my best route forward is some additional piece of 4/3 (or m4/3) hardware, or new software, or even just realizing that my current gear has some capability that I haven't properly explored yet. I'm now shooting with my sixth Olympus digital (E-M1 mk3) and I use 8 or 9 lenses ranging from an old OM 50mm to a D.Zuiko 12-60 to a Lumix/Leica 8-18 along with many other primes and zooms (some current, some "adapted").

I started to write a comment trying to explain all the twists and turns that have kept me in this format but it's just too long and convoluted. Suffice to say, the current E-M1, that amazing 12-60 zoom, and current software (DXO-Photolab, in my case) are keeping me shooting this format after 17-years-and-counting and are enough to keep me occupied for at least some time to come. Yes, I could probably do better if I started from scratch with a different format except, no, there is still more "better" for me to get out of the current capabilities of this one , I think.

Is the Nikon Z9 not a hybrid camera?It seems most of the new cameras are "hybrid" to some degree so let us not hold it against M4/3 for being hybrid. Granted, some cameras have enhanced video features but they still make good stills. In the Lumix cameras some of the popular features rely on video capability to support their high speed tech.

I personally think the 4:3 ratio is right, but the sensor is too small if you need more pixels. I wish we had a 4:3 sensor in between APSC and FF. Then the micro43, that in between sensor, and Fuji medium format would let you pick your sensor size, but all with that lovely aspect ratio…

I was a Nikon user in 35mm film days, and at the time, didn't have the budget to really dive into photography as I'd have liked. But one thing I did notice is that I never especially liked the 3-by-2 aspect ratio. When I bought my first DSLR in 2005, I chose an Olympus E-volt E-300. With a name like that, is it any wonder it didn't catch on? But it had a CCD sensor and when the stars aligned, was capable of making really nice photographs.

I knew very little about photography when I bought that camera and even less of the technical constraints and opportunities of the 4/3 format. As much as anything, I liked the more squarish aspect ratio. And I could buy a two-lens kit with reasonably decent lenses that gave me the field of view from 28mm-300mm in full-frame terms. Flexibility in a small package. I was happy!

Of course, I've learned a bit about photography and technology as the years passed and it's interesting to consider what the "ideal" format might be now, with the benefit of hindsight. But I think I'd choose Olympus again. It suits my needs. Finding and framing compositions in that aspect ratio comes naturally to me. Any problems with my pictures are much more the result of my shortcomings as a photographer, than the limitations of the camera and lenses and sensors.

Moreover, the concept of "ideal" or "favorite" or "best" is problematic for me. Huge view cameras do some things well and phones do different things well. So any system is a compromise (as others have said before). But the Micro 4/3 system has served me well. I believe it's a better format and system than some reviewers give it credit for.

My first ever camera purchase was a Panasonic DMC-L1. The 14-50 vario elmarit zoom lens it came with was, is, very nice. Still now. Over the decade since that newbie wig-out purchase, I have found ever different ways to appreciate the 14-50 (a good anecdote to underscore: buy the best camera that you can); I think the guys at Panasonic and Leica really worked hard on that one. I bought one more 4/3 lens shortly afterward, the 25 Summilux D—so good I found and bought another one just a few years ago to have a back up and make sure I’ll be able to use this optic for a long time to come. [By the bye, the original 25 Summilux is not the same as the m43 version: the optical design isn’t the same, the name isn’t the same (D versus DG Summilux).]

The shutter unit on my DMC-L1 died the year before last, and Panasonic wouldn’t replace it for me (I live in Tokyo, so this is Panasonic service Japan: if they won’t take the job then that’s all she wrote…). To keep the lenses going — because I want to use them, of course — I have tried to replace the DMC-L1 with an Olympus E-M1mk2, but for whatever reason Olympus bodies with PDAF after the mk1 do not support the PL 14-50 vario elmarit (Panasonic actually has a compliance table hidden away on its site which confirms the 12-50 is n not supported by Olympus OSPDAF bodies post E-M1mk1)… Panasonic m4/3 bodies will drive both lenses, but CDAF only and with the 14-50 in particular the focusing is terrible. If anyone out there has tried, like me, they will know that that is not a nice experience. I couldn’t say “unusable,” but close enough to it to kill any motivation to spend money on a camera body for the experience. The 25 Summilux D had a firmware update to make them a bit better with CDAF, but they still aren’t the best on a Panasonic m43 body. On the E-M1mk2, they are much better; they focus very well, perhaps better than on a 4/3 body (no AF fine tune issues, etc.) but the image isn’t quite the same. Just missing something that was there on the DMC-L1. Perhaps due to the small differences in sensor cover glass thickness, perhaps more due to processing and sensor hardware differences across the generation gap… all that really matters is: both lenses sung a better song on their native mount, with the camera they were designed for. The image was closer on Panasonic m43, but the focusing was awful; one of the lenses won’t work on modern Olympus OSPDAF bodies, the other works great but the image isn’t quite what you want. Shame really.

I can go as far as to say that some of my favorite images, qua image, were made with the DMC-L1 and those lenses. Panasonic have aped the DMC-L1 a few times in m43, and I’ve tried all the versions, but I never found that they did like the DMC-L1 did… the disparity in body to lens size wasn’t great for handling, and as mentioned previous, the CDAF was tiresome even in the honeymoon period—deal-breaking thereafter. Bar the way the lenses work when driven by contrast detect, I can swallow most of it if it means a second life for my two 4/3 lens models. So, I spend my days living in hope for an OSPDAF m4/3 body from Panasonic; not for any dogma about which AF system is better, but for wanting to use the lenses I love.

I’m not into going out and finding another 4/3 body in working order… aside from all the easy things I could say about batteries and, from first hand experience, lack of service and support—wasn’t there a saying about artists never being able to go home? I don’t think it only applies to artists. Regardless, trying to go backward to somewhere I’ve already been doesn’t sit right with me. It’s 2021, nearly 2022, what’s wrong with wanting to have the most up to date body I can get to drive the still good lenses? A: nothing, obviously.

I wonder, if the camera market were a few orders of magnitude bigger, could we get a restoration/remake culture like cars have? Give me a 4/3 DMC-L1 resto-mod any day of the week. Or even better, give me an official Panasonic re-issue, but with up to date back-screen, deeper buffer, etc. (but absolutely must produce images that look the same as the original). Even betterer, a m43 mount version of the DMC-L1, same physical size body (maybe make the grip a bit more ergonomic), same dials, OSPDAF to drive legacy 4/3 lenses — every last one — and put a big S1/S1r level EVF in it: I’d snap their hand off.

Perhaps the reason why camera makers won’t, besides a-priori money down the drain arguments, is they don’t ever want to go home either…

Well, this is a very interesting question for me. As a visual artist in other media, the aspect ratios of cameras were difficult for me to master----in drawing, painting, or printmaking I was the one who decided what the aspect ratio was, not a camera or film manufacturer.

In film I have used 110, 35mm, 120/220 in square, 645, and 6x9 formats, and 4x5 sheet film. When I moved to digital, I quickly (after my first digital camera, a Kodak) moved into Oly, and before I decamped for Sony had the lovely E-3. I liked the 4/3 format's aspect ration better than 35mm's 3/2, but I had the opportunity to move to FF with Sony at a price I could afford and grabbed it.

In 2014, I managed to stretch my finances enough to get Pentax's 645Z, and so now I'm back to a 4/3 aspect ratio, which I much prefer. The exception was my 6x9 camera which was one of my fave cameras of all time---go figure, since of course it was 3/2.

As for the 4/3 sensor size, the President of Oly famously said that it was all the vast majority of photographers needed. He was right of course, but sadly he missed the point and mixed up "need" with "aspiration". Today I strongly believe that 4/3 sensor sizes are too small for anything but pocket cameras or some other specialized ones. This has to be understood in the context of truly affordable FF cameras of today---and digital medium format ones that cost less than the top end FF ones.

I'll never be sorry for making the move to crop frame 645. The malleability and general quality of the raw files is something that has to used to be fully appreciated---and nearly everyone who has made that move does.

I'm very happy with my Lumix, and it has become my main camera. However, the FF SLR still remains in the arsenal! It's not so much the difference (real or perceived) in image quality as it is the differences in viewfinders (OVF vs EVF) and the two cameras' ergonomics. The two just work differently.

I always thought 4/3 was ideal too. But for me, it was more about the size and weight of the camera. My first film slr was a OM-1, because at the time it appeared to be the smallest of the available slr’s.
With change to digital, I of course gravitated to Olympus, and bought a E-500. If there was anything smaller, that’s what I wanted. A few years later, I traded the E-500 for E-620.
When micro 4/3 came along, I jumped right in, very happy with the EMD series, with the smaller lenses, especially the primes. Now at my age, I doubt I’ll ever switch to anything else. But, who knows, if I win the lottery. . . .😁

“Inside each and every full frame image is a 4/3 image waiting to be set free…” (Quote from comment by Speed).

There is a photography contest at Dutch tv. Ten celebrities are competing each year for the honor and a documentary for National Geographic. But in fact it is one big Canon commercial, ten weeks in a row. The contestants are supported by professionals. More than once a saw they got the advise to use a full frame camera with a zillion pixels so they don’t have to worry about the composition at the shoot, in post process there is enough time for that.
It’s their way to promote full frame, but at the same time it seems a confession that the format is overkill.

@ Philip Martin. On average 6x7 cameras produce images of 56x70mm. So that’s in fact an aspect ratio of 4x5, not 6x7.
A 4/3 full frame is as far as I know not available, but several Nikon full frame bodies offer a 24x30mm (4:5) format. Probably also as a small accolade to some Nikons in the Fifties that used this standard.

I've recently been shooting with an Ensign Selfix, a 6x9cm folder made in England in 1953. It is the only 120 folder with a 5-element lens. After eight exposures the roll is ready for Xtol development, or two-bath C-41. Shooting and processing can be finished before lunch.

I'm a little surprised that no manufacturer has touted (1+sqrt(5))/2 : 1 as the ideal format. It would mesh nicely with other pseudo-mystical properties of photographs such as desirable bokeh characteristics. On a more practical level, a higher aspect ratio reduces the need for perspective corrections and shift lenses. On that basis I'd suggest that the 1.5:1 aspect ratio of APSc and full frame is a better compromise that 4/3. You can always crop an APSc format image down to 4/3 and still end up with 4/3 format quality.

Like many old-timers I started with 120 film during the 1950s/1960s. I bought my first 35mm camera around 2005. I have never seen a 4/3 camera, although they seem like a good idea.

I've read all the equivalency balderdash posted by the Full Frame Gurus over the years. Recently someone asked, on a DPR forum, the formula needed to convert a light reading from a hand-held meter. I'd always thought that f/2.8 is always f/2.8—seems like some people don't understand this simple concept.

Using fractions when comparing the aspect ratios makes me a bit confused. I use regular numbers:

FF or 2:3 is 1.5
A ratio is 1.414
4/3 is 1.333

I shoot FF but print using the 1.414 ratio on paper from A6 to A3. To simplify things I also use this ratio for my web site. I never use vertical orientation.

On advantage of shooting in FF and printing/publishing in A ratio is that one does not have to be very exact when framing horizontally when taking a picture (“capturing an image”). There is always a bit of leeway on what is available on RAW.

The older and more experienced I became, the more aware I became of the creative significance of the aspect ratio of the picture format.
One day my brain surprised me with the question in which aspect ratios (traditional) painters actually paint, who are completely independent of technical specifications, but can decide purely according to aesthetic considerations.
On my next visit to a museum, I paid attention to this and ... I won't give it away,- treat yourself to this very interesting research!

If anyone is wondering what the 4/3 means it refers to the diameter in inches of common vidicon vacuum tubes, which before digital were used in TV cameras.

Mike, Congrats on hitting a discussion nerve again! Amazingly in-depth and technical responses. Took me a while to read and understand, too., with positions of positive and negative crossing back and forth like a WWI battle line in France. Maybe keep your MWF posting days unless the number of responses gets over thirty or so, and then give yourself an extra day.
I’ve posted this before, but It’s worth bring up again about Omni-aspect sensors by Wrotniak:

I had a nice setup with an Olympus OMD EM5 and a nice set of 1.8 primes. Things I liked most were the aspect ratio and the size of the lenses. I never found the image quality great for larger prints, but it was usually good enough. The truly awful menu system led me to give it away. I replaced it and my D800 with FF Sony and some slower lenses to keep the size down. That has proven to be a great move for me. Much better image quality, easily carried, and a menu and button customization that is at least useable to make the camera work as I need. I usually crop close to 4:3 or 5:4, but I’m not a purist that is bothered by throwing away a few pixels or square mm of film to get the print I want. I really don’t get the hate here for full frame, yet the acceptance of medium format digital.

[Wait, what? "Hate" for full-frame? I wasn't aware that we hated 1/2.5 or 11x14 or anything in between. It's possible that, since they're outliers, we don't cover formats smaller or larger than that very much, but we have done.

The post was making a case for Micro 4/3, so maybe in that sense. But at the end of the Micro 4/3 post I even linked to a post that extols 24x36. And, a day before I wrote the Micro 4/3 post I was accused of hating Micro 4/3. --Mike]

I labored through a good many of the comments re your post on Micro 4/3 photography and concluded (perhaps it was soon after reading one in particular) that there are a lot of people that seriously need to consider drinking more beer.

This discussion on aspect ratio is really interesting. Just for fun, I looked up the dimensions of the Mona Lisa. The painting is 20 7/8” X 30”. Someone said that a 3X2 vertical seems a little too narrow. I guess Da Vinci would have agreed. Starry Starry Night is 30” X 29”. Maybe the answer to the question of the ideal format is simply, it depends. As Mike often says,”just saying.”

Opps, I can’t read dimensions correctly, Starry, Starry Night is 36” x 25”. So maybe a 3x2 aspect ratio is close, very close. I still think it just depends on what a artist or photographer likes.

[I think the painting is "The Starry Night." (La Nuit étoilée.) The Don McLean song is "Vincent (The Starry, Starry Night." --Mike]

I agree that 4:3 is the ideal aspect ratio. For prints. That's why whole plate is my favorite film format.

In digital, your observation about FF being the "view camera" sensor size is spot on. I use my D810 + Sigma Art primes that way, always on a tripod, in live view, focusing manually and magnifying the screen image similar to viewing through a loupe. The extra RAW image width comes in very handy for horizontal landscapes. It's inevitable that I've tilted the camera up or down, and correcting keystoning in post processing loses some image off the sides. I usually do only minimal additional cropping, ending up at 4:3.

"Canon's exact standard was slightly smaller than Nikon's." - When everyone has his own standard, what is left of "standard"?

I suppose that i am late-to-the-party on this thread, but it touches a nerve. Everyone has their own MFT story; here's mine:

For almost 50 years i've wanted a system with Leica-like portability, yet top quality, and when MFT came along i thought i might have found it. Starting with a G1 in 2010 i bought a half dozen MFT bodies and a menagerie of lenses to use as my light-weight go-anywhere system (to complement a FF kit for max image quality work).

As others have noted, the image quality seemed to stall about 2014 or so and dealing with the limited DR/ISO and color issues seemed to get more and more frustrating. A friend lent me a cheapy D5500 for a weekend -- ghastly viewfinder btw -- but the Nikon APSC files were a revelation: lifting the shadows, highlight recovery, and general color rendition were vastly easier to achieve. As Thom Hogan might say: the APSC Nikon/Sony sensor simply gathers more data. I suppose so; that camera has a sensor a few generations past MFT sensors . . . even now . . .

The killer was that the kit weight was about the same as MFT, and i could use my CLS flash system. So i acquired a Nikon APSC kit; i even have a D500 for wildlife use. Right now i am down to one MFT -- a Panny GX9 (with another poor EVF) -- and the Oly 12-40 f2.8, but i do not use it.

It is a pity and i guess that the fixed tariff of sensor upgrades could not be spread over the small MFT production runs by the MFT manufacturers. Cell phones show that minor miracles can be achieved with tiny pixels, but not without massive investments . . . that the MFT market did not support.

-- gary ray

Mike, I wasn’t specifically referring to you as the hating (in hindsight a poor choice of words) full frame, but rather other commenters blaming people buying full frame for reasons they feel are not well reasoned for the decline in their favorite format.

In film my favorite camera was probably a square TLR. Pretty much any ratio you wanted without having to flip a camera. I shot a lot of mamiya 220 or 330 cameras. Digital I’m a 4/3 guy shooting oly with my favorite camera being a Pen F.

I think there is no point in making this late comment but I can't help after reading all these discussions with aspect ratio. When I review pictures I took and decided that a picture is not to be thrown out, I would immediately do a quick edit -- even with my phone pictures. The first thing I did usually would be to do some cropping. I don't care about the original aspect ratio, I just worked on the picture to decide how it should look. When I print in standard sized papers, there'll just be more white space on the bottom or the sides. We are not bound by the aspect ratio of the film era, I think we should all liberate ourselves.

I grew up printing 8 x 10 principally because I couldn’t afford larger paper. Almost everything I shot for umpteen years was with a 4 x 5 print in mind. Having moved to digital era and to the land of Oz, all the largest sheet paper for the largest printer I can justify (17 x22) is readily available only in metric sizing here - namely A2. So since I started seriously printing for exhibition about 5 years ago, I’ve started shooting on FF with the ratio 1:1.412 in mind. It’s really all just laziness because, if I am careful with the alignment in the printer and print with proportional borders, I can single instead of double mount prints and avoid trimming - the bits of the process I dislike the most, and for which local framers charge a lot (and IMHO, rightly so). However, I have surprised myself at how adaptable I’ve become to what is the “appropriate” print size / shape…

I am an amateur travel, landscape, and macro shooter and the perfect format for me is micro-four thirds based on image quality, equipment size, and format aspect ratio. I have shot other formats in the past and am not tempted to change to any other current system. Here is why:

In a Lowepro Flipside 400 back pack I am able to carry the G9 and the GX-8, Lumix 8-18 f2.8-4, 12-35 f2.8, 35-100 f2.8, and 100-300 zooms, along with an Oly 12 f/2, Oly 17 f1.7, Lumix 25 f1.7, Lumix 42.5 f1.7, Oly 60 f2.8 macro, Oly 75 f1.8, and a 7.5mm fisheye. It all weighs less than 20 pounds! To be able to carry that focal range with the capability to produce image quality equal to or even exceeding that of medium format film in such a small light package is astounding!

What if the m4/3 format is abandoned by the industry? I will happily use my current equipment until it all dies, then worry about what to do next. I think one of the primary problems for the camera companies is that they have done their job to well! The G9 and GX-8 are perfect cameras for me. I am so satisfied with them, I have no desire to upgrade - NONE. Even if my current cameras die, I would prefer to simply replace them.

Everyone is welcome to their own opinions and each person has to make these decisions for themselves. No single format will ever satisfy everyone. In the end it is the images you make that matter. If anyone feels the need to try and convince others that their choices are superior, maybe the image is not the most important thing to them!

I crop all my 4/3rds images to about 4x5. Maybe it's because I admire some masters' images from film, and also from certain large-scale canvases of paintings. So maybe it's a pretense? It's how I see shots now, in any case. I like the "confrontation by the image" that the wider ratio allows. Maybe if I wanted to mimc photojournalism I'd see things differently?

Funny how a ratio invokes a visual language, a certain pictorial dialect. With my xpan I think "Think cinematic, damnit!" At 16x9 I think "Think direct-to-video!"

"Think laptop splash screen!" my head screams.

I'd happily buy a low end "full frame" if they cropped the image circle differently, less narrowly, and I'd stop down to make sure things are in focus. ... though Speed's fun "inside every image..." comment is now echo-ing in and teasing my noggin.

BTW I think I've liked 3x4 also because of its Pythagorean ease. The diagonal is at ratio 5. Take that, you A paper format and golden ratio lovers! (whose ratios admittedly are pleasing to my mind's math also)

I've jumped around to different formats, returning to 'full-frame' from APS-c because I do shoot 30% of my work in dark conditions, and it makes a difference. And despite trying to find a happy medium, I've never found a 1 in sensor I've really liked, finding the 16MP APS-C compacts to give the most reliable results for how I use them, so my RX100 Mark something or other is off on vacation with my father, and I'm using my Fuji X70 or iPhone as the small camera. M4/3's felt similar - the size was great but I could never find the results I was getting with larger sensors, so the size because irrelevant.

Still shoot Fuji for IR work, and I dearly love the cameras, just wanted more reliable focus and just a few more photons for everything else.

I just recently bought an em5 mark III with a few olympus lenses - the 12mm f2, 17mm f1.8, and the 75mm f1.8. Mainly a film 6x7 and leica 35mm shooter, but I often use a digital camera as a 'refresher' for my film work.

After spending a few weeks with the little m4/3 olympus, I promptly sold my Nikon Z native lenses. The Zuiko 17mmm f1.8 is optically %97 as good as the Nikkor S 35mm f1.8, but it plus the e-m5 body is still smaller than just the nikon lens alone. The in body stabilisation is genuinely able to change the way that one shoots. The colors and black and white tones straight out of camera look fantastic. The 4/3 ratio is more comfortable to me than 3:2 of the nikon. I have a Zuiko Pro 25mm f1.2 on loan from Olympus/OMsystem, and it's a stupendously good lens - I feel that the rendering is very similar to the 75mm/80mm f2.8 primes of the mamiya/pentax 645 systems. Smooth, soft, yet sharp. High resolution even to the corners at f1.2, yet a gentle rendering. So far, I've been blown away by it.

I had initially bought the very first Olympus E-P1 more than 10 years ago on promised of the m4/3 idea. I was left frustrated with it - a pretty object with poor image quality and no fast, small lenses available. Now more than 10 years later, I can say that Olympus did in fact fulfil the promise of the m4/3, albeit a bit late, but it really is a perfect digital system.

@ PaulB ... I was surprised at how many cameras and a great many lenses he packs into a camera bag.
And I wonder how he packs them so they don't get damaged while walking around and taking them out and putting them in AND still have quick access to a particular lens.
Wouldn't that be an exciting topic for a post and poll at all?

Speaking of aspect ratio I tend to prefer 3 by 2 for horizontal compositions and 4 by 3 for vertical compositions.
I'm an APS-C user (one of those SLR dinosaurs) and if I was going to start from scratch my gear acquistion now then I would probably vote with my wallet for APS-C Fujifilm (I've never owned a single Fujifilm camera). With that being said, APS-C seems to hit a sweet spot in my book (it's good enough in terms of IQ and might be sufficiently lighweight / portable).

I feel the same way as Robert about focus separation.

Some photos are better served with narrow depth of field, so why choose a format in which it's so hard to achieve?

I liked the narrow depth of field I could get with a 35mm film SLR, compared to the look of Instamatic and point and shoot camera results. I didn't always use narrow depth of field because it wasn't what I wanted for the "snapshot type" family photos I took during holiday gatherings, for example.

I waited a long time for Pentax to come out with a 36 x 24 mm sensor, mainly so that I could avoid having to buy all new lenses for an APS-C sensor camera just to match the angles of view of my film era lenses.

The smaller film era lenses are so nicely compact and well-made that I'm not worried that my photos don't use the Nth degree of the technical advantages of some newer lenses. Most people wouldn't even notice the difference anyhow.

Everyone's mileage may vary.

My Ideal format: square

For me, the ideal format has become...

...MACRO 4/3.

As in the 44x33 sensor in my Pentax 645z.

For film, the ideal format fights a battle in my world between 6x7 and 4x5. I won't go bigger, but for the effort of film to have a real return on the investment, I can't go smaller.

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