My experience in studio using Full Frame (Sony A7) vs. the Olympus OMD E-M1

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by 13thFloorPhotography, Nov 6, 2014.

  1. 13thFloorPhotography

    13thFloorPhotography Mu-43 Regular

    118
    Apr 24, 2013
    Los Angeles
    I hope you don't mind me sharing some thoughts about my experience working with both the Sony A7 with the FE 70-200 f/4 G lens and the Olympus OMD E-M1 in studio.

    I find that under controlled settings like a studio, the extra depth of field afforded by m43 cameras in general help me minimize the lighting gear I need to use. I never realized the implications it would have on the strobes I could consistently use while using a full frame camera at a higher f-stop until I tried it out myself. Since I've been doing a bit more portrait/headshot work, I personally prefer to a small aperture to ensure that both eyes are tact sharp. On a full frame camera that's around f/8 - f/11. With the OMD, I get a similar depth of field using f/4 or f/5.6 which is 2-3 stop difference. I find that it goes a long way with recycle time and the power needed to properly expose my subjects.

    I even find the files to be different in color/tone. At the end of the day, I find myself reaching for the OMD in studio and the A7 for natural light or on location portraiture work.

    I have examples of images here: http://13thfloorphotography.blogspot.com/2014/11/thoughts-about-full-frame-and-micro.html
     
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  2. penfan2010

    penfan2010 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 12, 2010
    NJ, USA
    Dino - nice article on you blog, thanks for sharing. Comes at a good time,too, because I am still debating whether I get an A7 or E-M1 as the next body (already have the E-M5, which I truly love). I have a more "real" need for the E-M1 sinceI recently bought a used 4/3 50-200 which does not focus as well on the E-M5. The desire for the A7 is a bit of an imagined need re: shallow depth of field, but I know that with my Oly 45 or 75 I can get pretty nice out-of-focus backgrounds. Thanks for reminding me of another advantage of the m43s, the wider depth of field per equivalent aperture. Nice photos BTW, for whatever it's worth, my rational mind momentarily shut down and I chose the wrong photo for the E-M1; being a75mm user, I should have known better!

    Thanks,

    Ed
     
  3. 13thFloorPhotography

    13thFloorPhotography Mu-43 Regular

    118
    Apr 24, 2013
    Los Angeles
    I was in the same boat as you not too long ago and I think the only difference is that I decided to actually buy a full frame camera. Buying the A7 was more of an investment into the future of the FE mount.The sony mirrorless full frame is moving in the direction I want it to, especially with the A7s.

    The EM1 is pretty darn close to being the perfect camera for me. Pair it with the 75mm it really is amazing. I wouldn't feel too bad about choosing the wrong image. My brother owns an OMD and chose incorrectly too. At the end of the day, I still hold the position that mirrorless wins this battle.

    I really appreciate your feedback and this experience really put a lot of things into perspective
     
  4. AlanU

    AlanU Mu-43 Veteran

    484
    May 2, 2012
    Very interesting points ;)

    I've always had Einstein's for my studio setup so I've never had to struggle for more watt seconds.

    The Godox AD360 is getting alot of attention these days for great small portable power with 360 WS on tap. That is plenty of power for headshots at f/8.

    If you've ever wanted to utilize your current godox flashes I'd suggest picking up a set of cactus v.6 triggers. The manual control knobs can adjust 3 groups in a matter of seconds. This way you can really shoot on the fly for headshots for key/rim light. I've spent about $1200 on TT5 pocket wizards and AC3 for my canon gear and thats the worst money spent in my entire life. TT5 is great for quick light changes but extremely unreliable.

    As far as colour is concerned are you getting color shift from you flash???? This is very possible.
     
  5. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    It's good to see someone advocating greater depth of field (especially for portraits), rather than the usual getting half an eyeball in focus and the rest being blurred. As they say 'eyes are the doorway to one's soul', so why have that doorway only half open? And 'context' is something I've been talking about for some time, where image isolation in itself does not tell a story in many photographs, it may look nice, but loses all context in many cases.
     
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  6. 13thFloorPhotography

    13thFloorPhotography Mu-43 Regular

    118
    Apr 24, 2013
    Los Angeles
    Hi, AlanU

    You are absolutely right, the AD360 is enough power for key. I tend to use the speedlights (v850s) for fill and backlighting. At 1/2 power and up it reaches the overheating zone quickly, which is why I needed the monolights and rover 600ws light. I will look into the cactus V6 triggers (I really like the grouping feature), but the Godox Cells II trigger really helps with integrate non-Godox branded strobes. Those pocket wizards can be pretty pricey. I almost bought them because I wanted nothing but the best.

    The colors are very consistent, fortunately. I really think it's the nature of how Sony and Olympus processes their raw files. At the moment I like how Olympus renders tanner, more olive skin tones, while I like Sony for fairer tones.
     
  7. AlanU

    AlanU Mu-43 Veteran

    484
    May 2, 2012
    Please research to see if the cactus can learn to be used with godox. It may infact already have a profile in the menu. Cactus v6 is does have ETTL or HSS. However for indoor portrait work you'd use manual anyways. The physical buttons and knob can be learned instantly. The triggers are reliable and its just something to consider in the large market of triggers.

    I've used my einsteins with the Power MC2 triggers. This is where I can dial the power with my Pocket wizard TT5 w/ AC3. This is reliable triggering since the Einstein does not have RF issues like my canon speedlites.

    I've had great results with my EM-5 using my Einsteins when I use my cybersync triggers. Its great to see this m43 platform works with your current lighting gear.

    Are you looking into the Adorama Rovelight RL600?? That would be a great strobe for high shutter speed wide aperture outdoor portrait work. I'll use my canon 600EX rt for that purpose but typically i shoot natural light for that type of work or night time backlit shots.

    I find my Einsteins with lithium pack a quick setup. This is where having more WS of power allows you to use whatever platform you like.

    I like that you are using the godox with the m43. Thats a slick setup.
     
  8. broody

    broody Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    Sep 8, 2013
    Very nice!

    Indeed, when you stop down with a FF camera and are forced to raise ISO to compensate, you squander a lot of IQ potential. A modern FF sensor stopped down to F8, compared to a M43 body at F/4 with two stops lower ISO, will consistently give a picture with a stop less of dynamic range than the M43.

    Not to demean the merits of FF, but when you need deep DoF you can't beat M43.
     
  9. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    941
    Oct 20, 2011
    Your lighting, processing and general aesthetic(having it more unified) have improved a ton since the last time I've seen your site... just sayin. I like the comic con shots too, I hate the front on dull ones that are usually shown, so much crazy life and character and they're never caught like that on camera.

    With the lights I use I find I'm usually in the range f8 is about as iso 100 (+/- depending on distance, and some other considerations), probably why I prefer the FF camera. Then again I'm using pack heads, and AB's are my small lights. If I can plug in, I'm plugging in, at home hot shoe strobes I will never touch just too unreliable. just my 2 cents find it funny about the shallow DoF, as most lighted photo's don't really on that particular technique as we now have full control over the background, subject, where the light falls, how it falls, and complete control over the contrast of the light.
     
  10. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    799
    Oct 28, 2013
    Your photo's are gorgeous Dino.
    I need to admit, from time to time I get sucked into the FF bandwagon and wonder... hmm would my images look better if I had more shallow DOF. It's crazy really... because a difference of two stops depth of field isn't as perceptively massive as people make out. It would be very rare that I could attempt to shoot wide open with a 50mm 1.2L on a 5d. Even then there is Photoshop and gaussian blur if you really want that green screen look!
    As Ray said, a soft out of focus 3d pop with context and a subject in sharp focus is infinitely preferable to a green screened background, or an out of focus soft image.

    I was at a photographic expo last week and again picked up the A7 and A7r (it's the full frame that I want to love), but the EM1 has ruined me in terms of focus speed, accuracy, speed and shutter lag. Heck even build quality. I kept wishing that the Sony felt as solid in hand as the EM1.
    To be honest, I'd seriously consider a GH4 or NX1 if I was looking for a second body (probably go for something like the NX1 as it would also double as a nice medium format replacement for large landscape prints and can record 4k H.265 to the internal memory card).

    Great write up and a very refreshing one too, that is real world practical and honest.Nice job Dino.
     
  11. 13thFloorPhotography

    13thFloorPhotography Mu-43 Regular

    118
    Apr 24, 2013
    Los Angeles
    I just want to thank everyone for the feedback. I feel I have grown as a photographer due to the feedback and help I have received from this forum. When you pair good light with any of the modern cameras today, it really is hard to tell the difference between cameras. It really is an exciting time to be a photographer especially with this paradigm shift of companies spending more and more money in the development of mirrorless cameras. Thanks again to everyone for chiming in.
     
  12. hankbaskett

    hankbaskett Mu-43 Regular

    155
    Aug 21, 2012
    I'm not sure I'm following the logic here. Why not just shoot at f/8 or f/11 and bump the iso up on the A7r such that you can use the same lighting?

    If you're shooting at say... f/4 at ISO 100 on the EM-1, I'd argue that f/8 ISO 400 will produce just as clean (if not cleaner) files on the A7r, you'll end up with more dynamic range, and you'll have a 36MP image.

    If you downsampled it to 16MP, you could probably push it to iso 800 before the A7r's sensor produces a noisier file than the EM-1 at ISO 100. You're going to get at a bare minimum 2 stops of extra ISO out of that A7r sensor, whether you're at 100-->400 or 800-->3200.

    I own both, and have lots of complaints with the A7r (the EM-1 is a way more polished and usable camera), but DOF control and ISO performance certainly aren't amongst them.

    EDIT: Upon re-reading I see that you're comparing that A7, so you would have less headroom for downsampling, but the ISO performance is just as good on the A7 so my point more or less stands. Nice site / photos btw, I love the lighting/feel of this headshot.
     
  13. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    With respect, and not to get all DXOMark on you, but if you're cranking up the ISO on the A7r by two stops, you're quite literally entirely obliterating the advantages that the larger sensor gives you. The SNR on the A7r at print resolution is exactly 2 stops better than the E-M1. If you're using anything other than ISO 50, however, you'll end up with a big penalty by stopping down the A7r.

    Check out this graph:

    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Sony-A7R-versus-Olympus-OM-D-E-M1___917_909

    http://i.imgur.com/wHv5d1q.jpg

    Between 125-400 ISO on the E-M1, the A7r enjoys just 2/3 of a stop advantage in terms of dynamic range! So stopping down 2 stops will result in a worse image on the A7r than the E-M1 when you normalize the resolution (if you're planning on reproducing the A7r image at poster size, the extra resolution is a clear advantage as well).

    If you're using your full-frame camera to produce "equivalent" images to a M4/3 camera, you should really probably just use an M4/3 camera instead and save the money and weight. It's only when you're using it at the limits (i.e. at base ISO for landscapes or product shots, or with faster than f/2 lenses at high ISOs) that the significant advantages of the FF sensor can really be leveraged.
     
  14. hankbaskett

    hankbaskett Mu-43 Regular

    155
    Aug 21, 2012
    The only disagreement I have here is that by pointing to dxomark numbers you're missing out on the fact that downsampling decreases noise: http://photographylife.com/why-downsampling-an-image-reduces-noise so if you're normalizing to "print resolution", the difference is greater than the 36MP (or 24 in the case of the A7) to 16MP comparison you're/dxomark is making.

    At any rate, I agree with your conclusion that if you're interested in producing "equivalent" images and have no reason for the A7, there's not much reason in having the A7, but I was disagreeing with the thread starter who concluded that:

    "I would need less power from my lights to properly expose my subject using a m43 camera than I would with a full frame camera (the higher the f-stop/aperture, the more power I would need)."... stopping down the A7 and equalizing the ISO is going to produce the same (or probably better with respect to noise) result.
     
  15. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Nope! You'll notice that by default with DXOMark charts when you open up the Measurements tab the little box in the corner is set to "Print" which is a normalized value - i.e. one that already takes into account the noise-reducing properties of downsampling, rather than "Screen" which shows the full resolution RAW output. When you use "Screen" the per-pixel ISO performance of the A7r is about 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop better than the E-M1.
     
  16. hankbaskett

    hankbaskett Mu-43 Regular

    155
    Aug 21, 2012
    Huh, I stand corrected. Digging into those charts further though, I would point out that the SNR, Color range, tonal range is a consistent two stops better on the A7r, but the dynamic range does fall below that two stop mark when we get above base ISOs. So I guess for shooting low light / high iso studio portraits you are indeed a little better to use the EM-1, but I suppose my followup would be "why are we shooting low light / high iso studio portraits?" ;) .
     
  17. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Yes, I agree. But it just goes to show that if you are ever in depth-of-field limited circumstances (macro being a good example, or low-light group shots), the practical differences in format size really start to evaporate. I'd be hesitant to shoot a head-and-shoulders portrait at 50mm/1.4 with M4/3, let alone using something like an 85mm/1.2 on full-frame. I like both eyes to be in focus, thank you very much!
     
  18. 13thFloorPhotography

    13thFloorPhotography Mu-43 Regular

    118
    Apr 24, 2013
    Los Angeles
    Hey, TurboFrog. I appreciate your feedback on the headshot. But I will say that common practice with studio headshots is to shoot at base/low iso. I would most definitely consider bumping the iso if I were to use continuous light but not with flash or monolights. While I am sure most clients would not notice the difference between 100 and 800, I wouldn't risk the loss in image quality, albeit negligible . I personally would rather wait longer for my lights to recycle. While I haven't met a studio/headshot photographer who would raise their ISOs to that level, I can definitely see the utility if I were in a pinch. My overall point was to demonstrate that with good light, you can hardly tell the difference between the two sensor sizes.
     
  19. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    (FWIW, we share the same opinion. I was simply quoting hankbaskett, who suggested raising the ISO).
     
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  20. 13thFloorPhotography

    13thFloorPhotography Mu-43 Regular

    118
    Apr 24, 2013
    Los Angeles
    Wooops, I definitely meant to address hankbaskett. My apologies TurboFrog