Good afternoon to all. I have been working on this article in my free time between home and work. I wanted to write this to make a complete comparison between 35mm DSLR's and Micro 4/3's systems to help people understand the pro's and con's of each, the price difference, and common misconceptions. This is not intended to become a flame war, just an article for people to refer to before making any significant purchases. Im not a serious blogger by any means but i do enjoy writing about many things. I thank you in advance for bearing with me while reading. I know i left some things out, and i am asking for your help to add to this article anything that you deem pertinent. please take the time to read it and proof read and criticize anything you think needs to be changed. i thank you in advance. If you would like, you could leave comments and opinions here on my blog-post Full Frame Vs. Micro 4/3 On Leading Line Photography Apples to Oranges And here we go..The never ending debate. Full Frame Vs. Micro 4/3. Which is better? Who Wins? Which format has better IQ? I can only be a professional if I have a "FF" Camera with a big lens right? Can a "small sensor" compete against "full-frame"? Can a camera that is so small provide great results? Well in this blog post i will have an answer to these questions, list pro's and con's of each and also price out the two systems side by side in as most "equivalent" way as i can. And not to mention, put a myth or two to rest. Such as Full-Frame. What the hell is full frame? Micro 4/3 is "full frame" its a full size 4/3 sensor. There are many different image sensor formats and none of which can be respectively called "full frame". So from now on, i will be referring to the Nikon D610 as 35mm Sensor Size. This question is bound to show up in every one of your camera forums you visit each day. Listed in the highest post count threads because the topic is beaten to death and troll infested. I am going to compare these two systems from a realists point of view. Unlike others, i admit and acknowledge that there are other camera makers out there and not one is the overall "best". This review doesn't have graphs, or really any sample images, but it does give you a different point of view as to overall performance and how much money gets you how far in each system. I am going to price out and compare to systems. The Olympus OM-D EM-5 & Nikon D610. Bother deliver great IQ, but two different animals. The kits range from 16-150mm in 35mm Eq. FOV. Micro 4/3 System - Equates to 24-150mm (35mm Eq.) EM-5 Body $999 12mm f/2.0 $799 17mm f/1.8 $499 25mm f/1.4 $525 45mm f/1.8 $399 75mm f/1.8 $899 TOTAL: $4,124.00 With an Average Aperture: f/1.7 & DoF: f/3.5 (35mm Eq.) 35mm Format - 16-150mm Nikon D610 $1,999 16-35 f/4 $1,256 50mm f/1.4g $439 85mm F/1.8g $496 150mm f/2.8 $1,099 TOTAL: $5,288.95 with an Average Aperture and DoF @ f/2.5 So, now let's average the Aperture and DOF of each system: 35mm: Average of f/2.5 u4/3: Average of f/2.6 (total light gathering divided by 35mm Eq. DOF) So there, with u4/3 we have faster glass overall, but in terms of DOF there is MORE, as we know, when compared to 35mm systems. But, when we look at the whole picture the two systems are ALMOST EQUAL in terms of average DOF and overall Light Gathering ability. High ISO Performance in The Real World... If you want to spend $1,164.85 more, you can have a 35mm system with a full stop less DoF but less "light gathering" and Better IQ when looking at prints larger than (16x20" IMHO) and better high ISO. But here's the kicker, what about High ISO when comparing the two systems. Well there is no-doubt that 35mm sensors provide clearly better images in higher ISO situations. But can this gap in performance be narrowed to the point where there isn't a clear advantage? Sure, it can. Its IBIS of u4/3 systems, namely the EM-5 and EM-1. IBIS , the great equalizer. For example. Every lens you put on the EM-5 is stabilized around 4 total stops. In my experience with The EM-1 it's closer to 5 stops, with handheld 1-1.5 sec exposures turning out sharp with a steady hand. So any prime lens or zoom you attach has stabilization, a feature missing in Nikon And Canon land. For example, you're not going to benefit from any IS until you're in the 70mm range with the 70-200mm lens from either of the Big Two. So this means that in the 14-69mm range, there is NO Image Stabilization for Nikon OR Canon, where as in micro 4/3 there is, not to mention, faster overall lenses. This means in times where you're bumping up the ISO on a 35mm DSLR to achieve a hand holdable shutter speed, you might not be doing so (or as much) with a IBIS model 4/3 camera to achieve the same shot, keeping the u4/3 camera in the "sweet spot" lower ISO's. Although ISO 6400 is plenty usable with the EM-5 and EM-1 IMHO, coupled with the fast prime lenses, you might never need 6400. So for example, you're using a Nikon 50mm 1.4g to shoot a subject in low-light and no flash, another individual is using a Pana-Leica 25mm f/1.4. The pana-leica is equiv. to 2.8 DoF in 35mm. The nikon shooter is bumping up the ISO to use f/2.8 (to keep the subject 100% in focus) and achieve a fast enough shutter speed to be hand holdable. Meanwhile the u4/3 shooter is using the lens wide open @ 1.4, maintaining subject focus, not bumping the ISO, and shooting hand-held to achieve the same result. Now, I'm not saying that the u4/3 user would have a better print that the 35mm user, just that the two systems are closer than one would think. Sure, if you stare at graphs all day then one would pick the 35mm DSLR, but unfortunately,there's this thing known as the real world. Lenses Galore Another HUGE benefit of the Micro 4/3 system is the ability to use a plethora of lenses from the Native u4/3 system all the way to adapted film lenses such as the OM-Zuiko line from the 80's. The native u4/3 prime lenses are hard to beat against any 35mm lens as far as overall sharpness, edge to edge and corner to corner performance. Even with zoom's, the new Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 is already being praised for its performance across the frame and when compared to the 24-70 Nikon, the Olympus is hands down the winner in overall IQ. The lenses with the u4/3 system are usually better performers than their comparable aps-c and 35mm lenses because of their size and design. For example, u4/3 lenses do not have as big of an image circle to fulfill as do bigger sensor format lenses. Its easier and cheaper to make a faster, sharper lens on u4/3 than bigger formats. Size and Weight for a compromise? This is the reason that many make a switch from APS-C or 35mm sensor size to Micro 4/3. The Nikon weighs in at a whopping 1.67lbs. for the body alone. Couple that with the 70-200 (3.39lb.) you're carrying a 5lb kit. Now, on the other side of the ring is the EM-1 (1.09lb) and the 35-100 Panasonic (.79lb) you have a comparable kit weighing a mere 1.88lbs. Just .21lbs heavier than the D610 body alone. Ask yourself this, How many times will i actually lug around my 24-70 and d610 on local adventures? let alone travel! I recently took the em-1 and 25mm Pana-Leica to the local farmers market and wondered what it would be like to carry around a bigger body and lens? Well , i probably wouldn't have taken it with me.. Sometimes i even throw the camera in the woman's purse from time to time and she doesn't complain, try doing that with a big bulky DSLR. In the end of this battle, the u4/3 camera gets taken everywhere! Even places where cameras wouldn't normally be allowed since you can throw a pancake lens on the body and put it in your pocket. EVF Vs. OVF Another highly subjective and debated feature of the micro 4/3 lineup. Personally, i find the EVF as an amazing tool. It allows you to see exposure adjustments and DoF live BEFORE you take the shot. It's hard to say that the OVF is "better" than the new generation electronic viewfinders such as the VF-4 found in the Olympus OM-D EM-1. When looking through the finder, sure you can tell its digital. But it is crystal clear and HUGE. At .74 magnification, it rivals the D4 and D800's. Sure, it lacks the DR of an OVF and i agree, but to me the EVF is fantastic. As technology increases, I'm sure the next-gen EVF's will be even more amazing. DoF & "Bokeh" Ah yes, i knew you were waiting to read my thoughts on this. I touched on it a little while talking about higher ISO shooting. Its a known fact that u4/3 has more DoF vs. 35mm Sensors this is due to the physical aperture opening of the lens for a 35mm is 2 times the opening of u4/3 lens at any given f/stop. This results in more preferable Out of focus rendering known as "bokeh". Can you achieve great Bokeh with u4/3? Yes you can. You can buy a 45mm f/1.8 and even better 75mm f/1.8. The longer the focal length and lower the f/stop, the better OOF rendering you will get. Now this is all very very subjective, some think that if you cant obliterate the background in a portrait, it deems picture worthless. Well, sure a great OOF background is fantastic i will not disagree, but i do like the entire face and upper body to be In Focus. So this leads me to this, where more DoF can actually save your ass. Most smart 35mm users will stop-down their lens from maximum aperture to achieve critcal focus. So that 50mm 1.4 you're using suddenly becomes at least f/2.8 to be able to achieve proper focus, sure distance from the subject matters ,but lets just use this as an example. So, with this you also just lost about 1.5 stops of total light, and in extreme cases, possibly even lowering the shutter speed into tripod territory unless you bump the ISO. Remember that Pana-Leica 25mm f/1.4? A u4/3 user would be able to take the same exact DoF @ f/1.4, not lose any light, and render the OOF areas quite nicely with bokeh. In terms on landscapes, the DoF difference is actually an advantage again. Typically i shoot landscapes on u4/3 @ f/5.6 ( f/11 on 35mm). This allows around 3 stops more light to hit the 4/3 sensor vs. the 35mm. Making landscape shooting a breeze, all while keeping the ISO low and achieving the overall same DoF. u4/3 Pro's Great IQ IBIS (every lens stabilized) Small and Portable EVF (for me it's fantastic seeing what you get) Bulb Mode (ability to watch exposure happen live) Use nearly any lens with an adapter Stealth Wi-Fi Built-In 1/8000 Shutter (only found in D800 and Pro-Level models) Huge RAW Buffer of 51 @ 6.5fps or 40 @ 10fps (comparable to pro D4 & D3) Weather Sealing that rivals D4 etc. 81 AF Points 10 FPS 1/320 Flash Sync tilt screen 4:3 Aspect Ratio, better for printing IMHO Viewfinder Magnification ( same as pro level 35mm DSLR's) u4/3 Cons: If you want razor-thin DoF, not going to happen unless you have 0.95 lenses Print Size, printing larger than 16x20 might want to get 35mm Sensor Battery life not anywhere near that of DSLR's 35mm Format Sensor Size Pro's: Highest IQ Less DOF for great Bokeh Plethora of Accessories since its a mature system Better High ISO Optical View Finder ( very subjective) Tracking subjects (u4/3 still not quite on this level) High Battery life 35mm Format DSLR Cons: Need a tripod for shooting lower shutter speeds Heavy!! Less portable Oh-Look-At-Me! No stealth or fitting in with the croud 1/250 sync Lower Fps @ 6.5 Pro-Level shared features: 1/8000 shutter Tracking Weather Sealing RAW Buffer High Resolution Monitors (EM-1: 1,037,000 vs D4: 921,000 High FPS (10fps EM-1) Final Thoughts... While on my way to my day job this morning, I drove through quite the picturesque scene with the leaves in the middle of the road, fall foliage at its peak, sun rising, yet slightly dark in the shadows of the woods. I found my self thinking, what would I have to do to take the shot if i had wanted to? Which was to stand in the middle of the road, at a low angle, get the curvature of the road and the sky starting to catch fire, all while watching for traffic... Well put it this way, with the OM-D EM-1, I could have simply pulled to the side of the road, got out and took the shot with the new 12-40 f/2.8 M.Zuiko without any worrying of a blurred image and got back in the car before i turned to road kill. Now, if i had a 35mm DSLR or even an APS-C camera, with a 24mm-70mm. The same image would have required me to setup a tripod or find somehow to brace the camera to get the shot. So I asked myself, what were the chances I would have even grabbed my bag if I had a big DLSR kit? More than likely it would have been left on the table. Secondly, if I HAD brought the camera along, i wouldn't have been able to set-up the shot without the use of a tripod. So ask yourself this. Is the IQ advantage of 35mm DSLR worth spending the extra money ? Do the hassles of lugging around your gear and the need to use a tripod ( for most lenses in darker situations) worth it? Will the camera be with you most of the time? In the end. The camera is still a tool. There is no "best" camera in general. The best camera is the one that suits you, you're style and the camera that you BRING with you. Because if you don't have a camera, you don't have the shot. I insist that you leave your thoughts and opinions in a comment, as well as any information that you think will be pertinent to add to this article. Happy Shooting!