Has Everyone Gone Nuts?

ralf-11

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Jan 16, 2017
Messages
1,632
Beware: Fill in Yer text ahead!

Recently there has been an increasing amount of discussion on the demise of micro four thirds and how it is inevitable, mostly because a phone is so much better. These discussions are about as old as the format and go back as far as I can remember being on this forum. However, what’s new is that there seem to be way more current micro four thirds shooters agreeing with this point of view. It seems to me, that the ongoing pressure of review channels and other full frame proponents has led to a change of opinion with many and I am utterly confused why certain sides of the argument for the system are ignored in favor of a single “we must have the very best image quality possible”. I am going to have an in depth look at the cameras/lenses I currently use and how I would replace them in different systems. I’m ignoring the FF systems of Canon/Nikon/Panasonic for the sake of making a better argument even if that is cheating.

Even though equivalency has been discussed to death on this forum, it needs to be mentioned here. The following I hold to be true:

FOV: With the crop factor the FOV changes accordingly. Although we may talk about a 25mm lens in mu43 or a xx in a phone we mean a 46.8° diagonal FOV. When we buy lenses the first thing we usually decide is the FOV we want. We articulate that in focal length millimetres but the FOV is what we mean. In this case a 300mm in FOV is the same as a ...

Aperture: The Aperture (f-value) tells us which exposure we are getting. It does not change with formats. If we need our shutter speed to be above a certain value (wildlife, sports) a faster aperture will provide that regardless of format.

Depth of Field (DoF): Depth of field changes with focal length and aperture. In micro four thirds we use shorter focal lengths for the same FoV. This impacts the DoF. A good rule of thumb is using “equivalent apertures”. This only affects DoF, not image quality. In different kinds of photography more or less DoF may be required, so the often thinner DoF of full frame sensors is a double edged sword.

Low light (high ISO) performance: Generally FF sensors are considered to be about 2 stops better while APS-C sensors are 1 stop better than mu43. This is not a strict rule though and the gap has been smaller or bigger depending on the tech available for different formats. Currently the very best FF sensors are slightly ahead of those two stops – slightly meaning (much) less than 1/3 stop. Despite what many people say about the progress of different formats the variance on this point has always been much lower than what people make out and advantages within a single format have been pretty slim in the last 5 years or even more.

Dynamic Range: Dynamic range tells us the variance of the brightest and darkest points in an image. It is measured in stops. The very best phone sensor currently has <some low value> but computational photography solves that.

Resolution: Resolution is not directly linked to sensor size, but small phone sensors generally allow for fewer pixels. but computational photography solves that too

How much worse is phone image quality really:
As can be seen from the above, phone image quality is worse in three aspects: Low light performance (ISO), Dynamic Range and Resolution. DoF control is a double edged sword. If you are constantly after more deep DoF a phone definitely has the edge, but good blurred backgrounds come as much from wise background choices and in many subjects more DoF is actually required. IF all you do is poston the internet a phone is just fine!

Low light performance can be overcome to a degree by faster lenses. It is likely more economical to buy a faster lens than a complete system swap as often you know exactly the scenarios where low light performance is important for you so a single fast lens may be all that’s needed. but computational photography solves that.

Dynamic range (more often than not 1 stop difference) and Resolution (often double, sometimes the same) are more difficult to assess. Dynamic range can be a problem even on current phone cameras so more is always better. Once again this is a question of analysing if you actually run into problems with this often.
but computational photography solves that.

People generally seem to have problems with the concept of “good enough”. Many (most?) people are not printing at all, and when they are they rarely go larger than 40-60cm which is a size that is absolutely fine with a 20mp sensor. Similarly many photos don’t actually have a huge dynamic range, especially in the area of portraits.

The question of AF

but computational photography solves that.

Video

Video is becoming more important or at least it seems so. Good quality (and I don’t mean image quality) videos are still a rarity on youtube, so I don’t quite get the hype and I still think that photos remain the more accessible medium. However, advances in video have been much more important than in photos in the last years so manufacturers market their video skills more and reviewers look at them more in depth.

Video AF:While Panasonics AF-C (without tracking) is competent the requirements for video AF are harder because the need of smooth focus transitions. Also tracking is much more important in Video.

Video IQ: Video IQ eliminates the question of resolution. 8K is not really a thing (yet) and 4k requires less Mp than everything on the market. Video IQ is therefore mostly a question of codecs and video crop factors. This is the reason that Panasonic has been leading in video IQ despite the smaller sensors, although low light IQ is becoming more important here and better AF systems now open up possibilities with larger sensors and smaller DoF.

phones are advancing on m43 here too

Diversion: Underwater photography
I am for this analysis excluding my underwater photography gear. A system change in underwater cameras can easily cost multiple thousand euros as equipment drops in value drastically basically the instant it touches water the first time. you can do this with a phone too

An actual comparison
All of these definite, but often marginal improvements come at a price. but you already have a phone

PS-C competitor and half the weight of the FF system.

The case for Apple?
it just works (usually)

The case for Samsung?
more advanced I guess

The case for WinPhone?
adds to your museum

Conclusion
m43 is getting squeezed - I'll sell you my m43 system for $99,000 incl. batteries

The original question – has everyone gone mad?
If I had made the same comparison 4 or 5 years ago the results would not have been roughly the same. But even then phones were taking over.

The FF argument
I have seen plenty of people arguing that FF is much better and that that is the reason why mu43 is not cutting it anymore. This, in my view is a completely stupid argument. If you think that your FF is so good enough as an interchangeable lens camera you’re not going to buy m43 either. Phone cameras are about convenience and FF cameras are just not convenient at all. People upgrade from their phones because they want better IQ and they don’t get that from better sensors, but from better and more importantly more varied lenses. Dare to pixel peep on your FF camera pictures, if you already complain about pixel peeing level details on mu43 then you are using the wrong orifice.

TL-DR:

Yes, everyone’s gone mad. Phones have changed, but somehow mu43 is suddenly not good enough anymore as a general photographic device.

Or maybe m3/4 will take off

Or maybe only phones and medium format will be left.

Anyway, who cares? Manfs. care of course, but who else?
 

Panolyman

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
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Wild West Wales
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Brian
Well, try as I might I just can't get as good a photo from my phone as my camera.
PA142221.JPG
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Well, to be honest I can't even get any photo from it...................

But, then again I can't seem to make any phone calls from my camera either...............

Where am I going wrong I wonder. :hmmm:
 

pdk42

One of the "Eh?" team
Joined
Jan 11, 2013
Messages
7,482
Location
Leamington Spa, UK
Well, as someone who recently dipped his toes into FF mirrorless (Nikon Z7), I can say this:

  • The Nikon Z7's IQ is demonstrably better when you go peering at the files 1:1 in LR. That I can't deny at all. But, speaking as a pretty standard amateur photographer, I can tell you that apart from such pixel peeking, the Z7 did nothing to improve the practical quality of my images (I do mostly landscapes). By that I mean that on Flickr, Instagram, my on-line portfolio, plus the occasional A2/A3 print, the difference is zero or as near to zero as matters. This is a point that the various bloggers and reviewers really never fully address. Of course, there needs to be some baseline of IQ (since otherwise they'd all be telling us to go and buy MF), but I think for most people FF is overkill.

  • The one area where the Nikon's improved IQ should have helped me (esp as a landscape photographer) was DR. But the trouble is that nature often throws DR at us that is beyond even the best FF camera; 12-13 stops of DR compared to 10-11 is nice, but if the scene in front of you is exceeding 16 stops, you're in pretty much the same boat whether you have a Nikon Z7 or an Olympus EM1. So you have to do a multi-shot bracket - and the Oly multi-shot burst is faster and better implemented.

  • Once you get past this IQ point, the appeal of the Nikon fades away. Compared to Olympus m43, there are a bunch of downsides - slightly bigger, slightly heavier, more expensive, narrower choice of lenses, poorer image stabilisation, bigger files (slower computer), fewer camera features, slower e-shutter readout time, much smaller buffer, more troublesome sensor dust, poor WiFi mobile app, and many more.

  • The biggest downside on that list above is the image stabilisation, and the way that it constrains the shooting envelope available (at least for landscapes). The problem is this - you need to stop down FF lenses by 2-stops more to get to optimum optical performance and have the same DOF as m43. Then you can take away another two stops to be using both cameras at their base ISOs (what else for best IQ?). You are now at a 4 stop shutter speed disadvantage compared to FF. But you have an IS system that's probably 2-3 stops behind an Olympus EM1.3. That means you're 6-7 stops nearer to needing a tripod and that makes a HUGE difference if you're shooting landscapes in the blue/golden hour. Tripods are not only more weight and bulk, but they compromise the flexibility of shooting.

Now don't get me wrong, the Nikon Z is a nice system and if you need the IQ it delivers then it's a great choice. But you need to ask yourself whether you really need this level of IQ, because it comes with its own set of compromises and limitations.
 

Mike Wingate

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Messages
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Altrincham
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Mike Wingate
Well it matters to me. I have made an investment in both time and cash. I like small, size and weight. Until the 2 new Canon lenses, what did photographers use for extra telephoto, drainpipes. Not for m43. Macro, the O60 is a great lens. There are so many lenses for m43. There is choice, plus they are not super expensive. My iphone is good, but not for any type of telephoto shot. Olympus still exists, people say it has a more professional range. Please Panasonic, a really nice GX10 next year please.
 

dpswbab

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
May 30, 2014
Messages
221
Beware: Fill in Yer text ahead!

Recently there has been an increasing amount of discussion on the demise of micro four thirds and how it is inevitable, mostly because a phone is so much better. These discussions are about as old as the format and go back as far as I can remember being on this forum. However, what’s new is that there seem to be way more current micro four thirds shooters agreeing with this point of view. It seems to me, that the ongoing pressure of review channels and other full frame proponents has led to a change of opinion with many and I am utterly confused why certain sides of the argument for the system are ignored in favor of a single “we must have the very best image quality possible”. I am going to have an in depth look at the cameras/lenses I currently use and how I would replace them in different systems. I’m ignoring the FF systems of Canon/Nikon/Panasonic for the sake of making a better argument even if that is cheating.

Even though equivalency has been discussed to death on this forum, it needs to be mentioned here. The following I hold to be true:

FOV: With the crop factor the FOV changes accordingly. Although we may talk about a 25mm lens in mu43 or a xx in a phone we mean a 46.8° diagonal FOV. When we buy lenses the first thing we usually decide is the FOV we want. We articulate that in focal length millimetres but the FOV is what we mean. In this case a 300mm in FOV is the same as a ...

Aperture: The Aperture (f-value) tells us which exposure we are getting. It does not change with formats. If we need our shutter speed to be above a certain value (wildlife, sports) a faster aperture will provide that regardless of format.

Depth of Field (DoF): Depth of field changes with focal length and aperture. In micro four thirds we use shorter focal lengths for the same FoV. This impacts the DoF. A good rule of thumb is using “equivalent apertures”. This only affects DoF, not image quality. In different kinds of photography more or less DoF may be required, so the often thinner DoF of full frame sensors is a double edged sword.

Low light (high ISO) performance: Generally FF sensors are considered to be about 2 stops better while APS-C sensors are 1 stop better than mu43. This is not a strict rule though and the gap has been smaller or bigger depending on the tech available for different formats. Currently the very best FF sensors are slightly ahead of those two stops – slightly meaning (much) less than 1/3 stop. Despite what many people say about the progress of different formats the variance on this point has always been much lower than what people make out and advantages within a single format have been pretty slim in the last 5 years or even more.

Dynamic Range: Dynamic range tells us the variance of the brightest and darkest points in an image. It is measured in stops. The very best phone sensor currently has <some low value> but computational photography solves that.

Resolution: Resolution is not directly linked to sensor size, but small phone sensors generally allow for fewer pixels. but computational photography solves that too

How much worse is phone image quality really:
As can be seen from the above, phone image quality is worse in three aspects: Low light performance (ISO), Dynamic Range and Resolution. DoF control is a double edged sword. If you are constantly after more deep DoF a phone definitely has the edge, but good blurred backgrounds come as much from wise background choices and in many subjects more DoF is actually required. IF all you do is poston the internet a phone is just fine!

Low light performance can be overcome to a degree by faster lenses. It is likely more economical to buy a faster lens than a complete system swap as often you know exactly the scenarios where low light performance is important for you so a single fast lens may be all that’s needed. but computational photography solves that.

Dynamic range (more often than not 1 stop difference) and Resolution (often double, sometimes the same) are more difficult to assess. Dynamic range can be a problem even on current phone cameras so more is always better. Once again this is a question of analysing if you actually run into problems with this often.
but computational photography solves that.

People generally seem to have problems with the concept of “good enough”. Many (most?) people are not printing at all, and when they are they rarely go larger than 40-60cm which is a size that is absolutely fine with a 20mp sensor. Similarly many photos don’t actually have a huge dynamic range, especially in the area of portraits.

The question of AF

but computational photography solves that.

Video

Video is becoming more important or at least it seems so. Good quality (and I don’t mean image quality) videos are still a rarity on youtube, so I don’t quite get the hype and I still think that photos remain the more accessible medium. However, advances in video have been much more important than in photos in the last years so manufacturers market their video skills more and reviewers look at them more in depth.

Video AF:While Panasonics AF-C (without tracking) is competent the requirements for video AF are harder because the need of smooth focus transitions. Also tracking is much more important in Video.

Video IQ: Video IQ eliminates the question of resolution. 8K is not really a thing (yet) and 4k requires less Mp than everything on the market. Video IQ is therefore mostly a question of codecs and video crop factors. This is the reason that Panasonic has been leading in video IQ despite the smaller sensors, although low light IQ is becoming more important here and better AF systems now open up possibilities with larger sensors and smaller DoF.

phones are advancing on m43 here too

Diversion: Underwater photography
I am for this analysis excluding my underwater photography gear. A system change in underwater cameras can easily cost multiple thousand euros as equipment drops in value drastically basically the instant it touches water the first time. you can do this with a phone too

An actual comparison
All of these definite, but often marginal improvements come at a price. but you already have a phone

PS-C competitor and half the weight of the FF system.

The case for Apple?
it just works (usually)

The case for Samsung?
more advanced I guess

The case for WinPhone?
adds to your museum

Conclusion
m43 is getting squeezed - I'll sell you my m43 system for $99,000 incl. batteries

The original question – has everyone gone mad?
If I had made the same comparison 4 or 5 years ago the results would not have been roughly the same. But even then phones were taking over.

The FF argument
I have seen plenty of people arguing that FF is much better and that that is the reason why mu43 is not cutting it anymore. This, in my view is a completely stupid argument. If you think that your FF is so good enough as an interchangeable lens camera you’re not going to buy m43 either. Phone cameras are about convenience and FF cameras are just not convenient at all. People upgrade from their phones because they want better IQ and they don’t get that from better sensors, but from better and more importantly more varied lenses. Dare to pixel peep on your FF camera pictures, if you already complain about pixel peeing level details on mu43 then you are using the wrong orifice.

TL-DR:

Yes, everyone’s gone mad. Phones have changed, but somehow mu43 is suddenly not good enough anymore as a general photographic device.

Or maybe m3/4 will take off

Or maybe only phones and medium format will be left.

Anyway, who cares? Manfs. care of course, but who else?

I think the problems for m4/3 started with the fact that neither Canon nor Nikon, by far the most recognizable camera brands at the time, supported the format. Most people had never heard of Olympus or Panasonic cameras, except maybe for point and shoots. Without the CaNikon visibility, m4/3 remaining a niche market was almost inevitable (my opinion; yours may be different). When I heard about Oly's imaging products sale to JIP, I looked at other systems to see if I could find a viable path for my needs/wants. Realistically, I found nothing that would work. Canon's m-system and Nikon's Z50 may be close, but their lens selections are woeful. And I can't stand using my phone for photos because the ergonomics are pathetic. Besides, I like all of the lens variety in ILC's. FF has never been a consideration beacuse of size/weight, even with the new mirrorless cameras. Therefore, I'll continue using m4/3, which will probably last longer than I will. I'll probably pick up a few backup bodies and lenses on the used market, just in case any of my current gear fails. The E-M1 iii is also tempting if the price drops to around $999.
 

Mike Wingate

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Feb 21, 2017
Messages
3,579
Location
Altrincham
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Mike Wingate
Well I was aware of Olympus from about 1974. Adverts in National Geographic. Acrylic stands in camera shops. I bought into Pentax ME and MX, also small bodied 135 cameras. I am still not really into Olympus cameras but have respect for the technology and enjoy the small jewel like bodies.
 

AlexMachine

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2016
Messages
335
Location
Finland
For my purposes and lifestyle, nature, land/cityscape, BIF, wildlife.
M4/3 is almost perfect and I can’t see myself getting FF.
Weight, size, IBIS, price, good enough picture quality and autofocus. And weight and size plays a huge part. I travel and hike with 2 body and 2-3 lenses - EM1.2, EM5.2, Oly 12-40, 40-150and Pana 17mm. All this weight about 2,5kg !
FF would surely almost double the weight and that’s 2,5kg other essentials I would have to leave home.
 
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