Low Light Wildlife Photography - M43 vs FF

Darmok N Jalad

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Joe, my sympathies.

I always thought it would be my three dodgy discs that would cause me grief.

They're still dodgy, but it's all the facet joints in my lumbar spine that are really giving me curry. Opiate based painkillers provide some relief (5x a day), but I cannot take any anti-inflammatories because I take Warfarin for an artificial heart valve, atrial fibrillation, etc.

Getting old ain't for sissies ...
So what you're saying is you're glad you found a nice, low-stress forum to hang around in? :)
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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I have decision paralysis and hoping that someone here has experience with both M43 (ideally Olympus) and FF (ideally Sony) to provide some hands-on experience.

Putting the recent news about Olympus aside, I am currently debating what I do next regarding my system of choice. For context, I shoot landscapes and wildlife as seen here: https://www.instagram.com/mrjoemorgan/, and I travel - a lot! Multiday hiking/camping trips for example. Or 20 mile hikes up mountains to find a mountain goat, so size/weight matter.

When it comes to Landscapes, my Olympus gear is great and does exactly what I need it to do. Sure, I bet people will say that with FF ill get better DR and IQ etc but I don't think I really need it. And most of my landscape work is done in "good" light. I would like the shallower DOF you get with FF but I can make do.

However, when it comes to Wildlife, that's where I have a few pain points with my Olympus system and need to decide if it's worth me switching. And for now, I am going to not worry about price, size, or weight. Just camera performance for my needs.

The pain points revolve around AF performance and low light performance. AF I can't really do anything about that, apart from continuing to practice and getting a better keeper rate with the Olympus AF system.

But with low light, I really can't use my Olympus above 1000 ISO and be happy with the results.

However, will switching to a FF system really help me? And this is where my lack of technical knowledge does me a disservice as I try and do the math.
  • If I switch to Sony I would go from f4 (300mm/600eqv) to f6.3 (200-600), which would mean shooting at ISO 2500 (FF) instead of ISO 1000 (m43) for example, if keeping SS the same.
  • Olympus has 7 stops vs 5 stops of IBIS performance, so that means I could shoot at 1/400 (m43) instead of 1/1600 (ff), bringing down the ISO with it - although the whole 7 stops with IBIS seems like black magic to me and I don't understand how that's possible.
  • The DoF difference - obtaining the same level of front to back sharpness with a subject from m43 with FF requires me to shoot f8 (FF) instead of f4(m43) for example, but this also depends on the distance of the subject from the camera etc.
I was originally trying to compare the two systems using the same exposure and thinking how much better IQ the FF system is. But using the thought process above, I should in theory be able to shoot with lower ISOs with m43 than FF. But is it enough?

And the reason why this has come up is that I am still having to push the ISO of my Olympus to levels where I don't find the results usable, so this really comes down to a question of switching to Sony/FF to enable me to shoot at high ISO and get happy results. Or stop trying to photograph animals in the woods and choose subjects that enjoy glorious sunlight!

I'll quit rambling and see if anyone can share their experience of FF v m43 when it comes to wildlife.

Thanks in advance

Joe
I'm in similar shoes to you. My main focus is landscape (though I haven't done that all that much because working nightshifts in the health system and the pandemic kind got me stuck at home most of the time) and wildlife (I tend to do this on a daily basis but in early mornings and evenings and I'm constantly fighting with light and shutter speed, they are never enough).
I have been trying to debate the cost worth of 35mm FF from Canon, Nikon, and Sony ... but there's not a lot of variety of lens choices (without going into adapting DSLR lenses for Canon and Nikon that is). And Sony 200-600mm f 5-6.3 is oooooh so damn big carrying it every day to and from work would feel like a chore.
A solution might be Tamron and Sigma when they come out with their mirrorless versions of 150-600mm (probably) f 5-6.3 which might be lighter, might be smaller but definitely cheaper. But then with Sony, I don't know how much trust I do put on their ruggedness and weather sealing (whether it rains or snows or sunshine puppies I have to go to work and go home so I often find myself in bad weather) ... and I go the extra mile to get a better photograph, I don't care if it's half a meter of mud, drenched wet grass or bunny poop I will hit the deck to get a better perspective, and my camera and lens does get their ruggedness tested, as well as moving through the thick foliage. I do think only Sony A9 II would be sufficiently well built for that.
And for AF, I've seen a few people report slow AF in very low light even with Sony A9 II because on-sensor PDAF struggles in low light (and given the f 6.3 aperture) while Panasonic G9 blazes in low light like a champion because of CDAF works so much better. I find myself often in forested areas where I am pushing ISO 6.400, 1/90 sec. at f 5.6 (I can go to f 4 but limited to 400mm) and getting 1 to 2 stops underexposed as well with my E-M1 Mark III and Panasonic Leica 50-200mm f 2.8-4 (+1.4x TC). Right now most I can get is f 2.8 from Panasonic Leica 200mm and f 4 from Olympus 300mm f 4 but that would still not be bright enough to go lower than ISO 6.400.
Going 400/600mm f 2.8/4 on Sony A9/Canon R6/Nikon Z6 would cost me more than what I paid for Olympus E-M1 Mark III, E-M5 Mark II, 7-14mm f 2.8 Pro, 12-40mm f 2.8 Pro, Panasonic 50-200mm f 2.8-4 and 1.4x TC combined for just ONE LENS.

A BSI sensor for Micro Four Thirds has become so painfully overdue and need for years and I just don't understand what is the holdup when we have much bigger sensors with BSI techonology

Addendum: APS-C is not in a better situation at the moment either. Unline Canon EF and Nikon F or Sony A or Pentax K mount come to think of it, it's only Sony FE and Nikon Z mount that share the same mounting for 35mm FF and APS-C. Where before you could use smaller(ish), lighter(ish), cheaper(ish) 200/300/400mm f 2.8/4/5.6 lenses to get extra reach from 1.5/1.6x Crop of ASP-C there isn't any options available (at the time of this writing) for mirrorless setup. Ex:
Sony A6xxx cameras are not ergonomically comfortable to use the Sony FE 400mm f 2.8 or 600mm f 4!
Canon RF lenses are not compatible with their own M mount ASP-C cameras!
There are no Z native telephoto prime lenses for Nikon Z50 cameras!
Panasonic's L-mount S1 cameras don't play with Micro Four Thirds lenses!

Fujifilm is the only brand taking ASP-C serious ... but:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

Fujifilm 200mm f 2 = 20 cm long, 2.3 kgs, 5.400 £
Sony FE 400mm f 2.8 = 36 cm long, 2.9 kgs, 10.500 £
Panasonic Leica 200mm f 2.8 = 17.4 cm, 1.2 kgs, 2.000 £
(Sorry but this is the closest comparison I can get since these are the ONLY options for mirrorless cameras per FL per aperture) It's up to you decide which is worth it and which is actually affordable.

Another reference:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

These are the best that brands offer natively in the range of 100-400mm (Fujifilm has a gap between 100-400mm and 50-230mm so I chose the first for comparison out of necessity):
Canon EOS-M: Canon EOS-M 55-200mm f 4.5-6.3 = 8.6 cm, 260 grams, 250 £
Nikon Zxx: Nikon Z 50-250mm f 4.5-6.3 = 11 cm long, 405 grams, 380 £
Sony A6xxxx: Sony E 70-350mm f 4.5-6.3 G = 14.2 cm long, 625 grams, 800 £
Micro Four Thirds: Panasonic Leica 50-200mm f 2.8-4 = 13.2 cm long, 655 grams, 1.475 £
Fujifilm: Fujifilm XF 100-500mm f 4-5.6 = 21 cm long, 1.375 grams, 1.590 £
Sony FE: Sont FE 100-400mm f 4-5.6 G Master= 21.4 cm long, 1.395 grams, 2.300 £
Canon RF: Canon RF 100-500mm f 4.5-7.2 L = 20.8 cm (?!? strange, in the picture it looks bigger then all of the lenses), 1.365 grams, 2.700 £

It's up to you to choose which mount and brand you believe is serious about the discipline of photography you are into. (It's possible that Canon EOS-M/Nikon Zxx/ Sony Axxxx will have better lenses for what you want in the future but who knows when that will happen).
I would say if you are young and strong and have boat load of money (invest or spend, whichever) then sure, go with 35mm FF
If you want portability (for whatever reason it might be, health, age, life style, etc) you have either Micro Four Thirds for maximum IQ PER APERTURE AND £££ or APS-C per maximum £££ and size.
(Personally, theres no compelling lens [price wise, size wise, weight wise, IQ wise or any combination of these] from any other format size to make a switch to ... if not Olympus 150-400mm f 4.5 Pro is more compelling for me to stay with Olympus, if it's 4.000 £ or less).
 
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mrjoemorgan

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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #63
@L0n3Gr3yW0lf thanks for sharing your thoughts and POV - its all the same thought process I have been going through.

It really comes down to personal preference. And the priority of those preferences. Size, Weight, Low Light, AF, etc etc

I have taken a bunch of test images with both systems, maybe Ill do a new thread to share the results in case people are interested?
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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@L0n3Gr3yW0lf thanks for sharing your thoughts and POV - its all the same thought process I have been going through.

It really comes down to personal preference. And the priority of those preferences. Size, Weight, Low Light, AF, etc etc

I have taken a bunch of test images with both systems, maybe Ill do a new thread to share the results in case people are interested?
I would read that with extreme interest and would be greatly appreciated. It’s never an easy decision no matter what anyone says.
(I could never not be a photographer, the “curse” of being a creative person. So I have to fit photography somewhere in my life and, unfortunately, I can’t do it on a professional level for a multitude of reasons so I have put it between price and fitting into my life style. It’s never easy and never the same for everyone, as annoying and unhelpful as it sounds: research, compare, justify and choose, it’s all down to you).
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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@L0n3Gr3yW0lf here it is: https://www.mu-43.com/threads/sony-...iii-m43-wildlife-photography-shootout.108863/

Not the most scientific test I'm afraid - but hopefully it proves of some use for those looking to compare.
I want less scientific and more personified! Science can’t tell you much engaging, ease or fun it is to use a lens or a system. How well it snaps onto the subject depending on light, colour, subject, speed. It won’t tell you how the rendition of the IQ, bokeh, the colours of an image it gives you. Or how an intuitive the AF and tracking a system can give you.
Sure, you can measure the focus speed in nano seconds, count the burst speed of a high drive mode, the number of AF points or how low EV they can function. And yet some cameras and lenses can still fail to give you a good experience despite their “high numbers/performance”.
Never underestimate the power of user experience and opinions.
 
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