Thoughts on Full Frame as an m4/3 User

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by jloden, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Please note, this is NOT intended to be a "why X is better than Y" thread. I'm not trying to advocate any particular system for anyone. This is solely intended to share my thoughts, for entertainment purposes only. etc. etc.

    I know a lot of people on the board have come from full frame and crop-sensor DSLR background and are switching to m4/3 or even using both systems in parallel. However, I started out with Micro Four Thirds as my first "serious" camera system, and I've now squared the circle by ending up owning and using a FF DSLR in addition to my m4/3 kit. As such I have the reverse of most people's experiences and I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts as a sort of counterpoint to the numerous DSLR -> m4/3 convert posts.

    My background: I started out with a GF2, 14-42mm Oly kit zoom, and Panasonic 20mm. My whole intention was to get better vacation photos, mostly motivated by a "once in a lifetime" trip to NZ and Australia we had coming up. At the time, size and weight was paramount to me, so I picked up the smallest body I could find and the 2 smallest lenses available (hence the Oly collapsing kit zoom and the 20mm pancake). Since then I eventually turned to photography as a passion in its own right, and I rolled through a succession of m4/3 bodies and lenses. Over time I realized that weight and bulk was still important, but I was willing to go up in size for a more comfortable shooting experience. I now own a GH3 and GX1 and various lenses as my m4/3 kit.

    I've been open to trying other systems but didn't bite on anything outside m4/3 other than a Fuji X100 until recently. Over the past few months I've tried the Sony RX1, and Nikon D600/D800 FF cameras. I wanted to wait until I'd used them long enough to form some solid opinions before posting my experience and feedback. I've now had the opportunity to shoot thousands of frames in various conditions. Here's my pros & cons compared to my baseline formed on m4/3 gear:

    Full Frame Likes
    - IQ (perhaps better defined as "image character") particularly resolution and focus fall-off rendering
    - Edge in Dynamic Range and high ISO performance
    - Shallow DoF; not always a plus but nice to have a lot of subject isolation capability sometimes
    - AutoFocus: AF-C mode works very well and I find the selectable point focus very fast and effective
    - Battery Life: rated to 900 shots on one battery
    - Ergonomics: Weight aside, the larger body is very comfortable and natural to work with
    - Optical viewfinder: easily pro/con depending on your preference, but I like the OVF after using it a while
    - More "serious" camera response from subjects

    Full Frame Dislikes
    - Heavier & bulkier
    - Expense: quality lenses more expensive than m4/3 counterparts. Ex: f/2.8 zooms compared to Panasonic offerings.
    - TOO shallow DoF: mostly an issue in low light, often can't shoot wide open as I would with m4/3
    - Noisy shutter/mirror slap (sometimes a con)
    - More conspicuous than smaller, quieter cameras
    - No EVF: no live histogram, level overlay, etc.

    While the list of likes/dislikes is almost equal in number, some have more weight (for me) in the "like" column so it's not really an even split. Somewhat to my surprise, the DSLR is seeing use far more often than I expected, and it's largely down to three main factors:

    1) Image Quality/Character - I notice a difference in my images (even with web photos), mainly detail resolution and rendering differences. More importantly, other people are noticing. Both photographers and non-photographers have been complimenting photos with the DSLR setup and I've gotten some really good feedback. Obviously this isn't quantifiable, but it's enough for me to see a difference and that other people are picking up on it unknowingly.

    2) Reliable - I've been finding the DSLR reliable in every condition I've thrown at it yet, in both senses. I know I can trust the camera to get the shots I want. It's reassuring that the camera is ruggedly built, locks selected focus area (and tracks it) easily, and the extra resolution, dynamic range and high ISO bump help ensure I'll capture more details.

    3) Serious - This one is the most subjective, but I have found the DSLR evokes a different response from people. One of the oft-quote m4/3 benefits is that smaller cameras are less intimidating, but perversely I'm finding the DSLR works really well for me because people treat it more seriously. Without trying to overthink the psychology involved, I'll just say that I find that the "oh, you're a photographer" response versus "what's with the camera?" seems to be a positive for my uses. If I were doing street photography that'd be different I'm sure, but for candid portraits of friends, travel photos etc. I find it to work for me rather than against me :smile:

    I'm keeping my m4/3 gear for size/weight and cost reasons - for instance an equivalent 14-24mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom trinity on FF is very expensive, bulky, and heavy. Not to mention something like a 70-200mm on FF is likely to bring back the "intimidation factor" alluded to above. However, I am also going to continue using FF systems. The two systems will complement each others' strengths and I am looking forward to more excellent tools in the toolbox for 2013! :2thumbs:



    It occurs to me I should end this post with a few of my favorite FF images so far, the thread just seemed naked without pictures :biggrin:

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8276900736/" title="Somerville by Night by jloden, on Flickr"> 8276900736_2b5da8c56e_c. "534" height="800" alt="Somerville by Night"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8328895482/" title="Newport Cliff Walk by jloden, on Flickr"> 8328895482_2bb5cee735_c. "800" height="534" alt="Newport Cliff Walk"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8331354670/" title="Newport - Braving the Snow by jloden, on Flickr"> 8331354670_e4404e8f4b_c. "534" height="800" alt="Newport - Braving the Snow"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8327868399/" title="Downtown Newport by jloden, on Flickr"> 8327868399_a981317596_c. "534" height="800" alt="Downtown Newport"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8328881780/" title="Newport Cliff Walk by jloden, on Flickr"> 8328881780_b81d8d0567_c. "800" height="534" alt="Newport Cliff Walk"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8330603172/" title="Love is Life by jloden, on Flickr"> 8330603172_b79b95ff52_c. "534" height="800" alt="Love is Life"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8301799994/" title="Holiday Hammering by jloden, on Flickr"> 8301799994_48f6479019_c. "534" height="800" alt="Holiday Hammering"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8301865544/" title="Holiday Hammering by jloden, on Flickr"> 8301865544_fd965c7ec8_c. "534" height="800" alt="Holiday Hammering"></a>


    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30940068@N02/8300821657/" title="Holiday Hammering by jloden, on Flickr"> 8300821657_2b23314b39_c. "800" height="534" alt="Holiday Hammering"></a>
     
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  2. Kiwi Paul

    Kiwi Paul Mu-43 Top Veteran

    729
    Aug 15, 2011
    Aberdeen Scotland
    Nice to hear your views on the 2 formats.
    I've never used FF so can't comment on the IQ etc, before m4/3 I was a 4/3 user and used the E3 and E5, both larger bodies comparable to other DSLR's in size and handling, which was excellent. However I really find the size and handling (ergonomics) of the GH3 to be the best yet. It fits like a glove for me, better then the E3 and E5 so I'd be surprised if a FF camera provided a better feel for me.
    I've always wanted to try ff just to see for myself how it performs, maybe I should rent a kit for a week just to find out.

    Paul
     
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  3. harry_s

    harry_s Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Jul 19, 2011
    Wiltshire, UK
    Interesting thoughts, particuarly on the 'Serious' comments. I've gone APS-C, M4/3, FF, M4/3, the variation in comments/opinion from others (particuarly fellow photographers) is definitely quite pronounced, but at the end of the day the move to M4/3 has not had a noticeable impact on my work to really justify the general air of negativity towards it, and more importantly those who publish my work haven't actually noticed.

    I shoot sports, so the 'bigger is better' mantra is pretty strong in that area, but opinions are slowly changing. The amusing thing, even in the very short time I've returned to M4/3 after a year out, is that there is now even a sub-division of M4/3 kit to outsiders...'Are you shooting with the Olympus?'
     
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  4. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    I agree with almost everything except for one point. And that's subjective as you have already stated.

    From my experience, big cameras almost always have worked against me. A lot of people these days are worried about security, more so when you go around photographing buildings. With a smaller camera, most people don't care. It helps during events/concerts too.

    Even with family and friends get conscious if there's a DSLR around and they seem more relaxed with a smaller camera. As far as people treating me seriously goes, I don't really care :wink:. I find it advantageous to be taken not-so-seriously as I get better photos when they're relaxed and don't care about me or my camera :smile:. Again, it's subjective as you said. These factors ensure I stay away from bigger DSLRs.
     
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  5. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay

    I agree with you, in those scenarios it's not a plus. It really depends a lot on what you're photographing and where so it can just as easily be a con for the system.
     
  6. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I love both, and I get different kinds of pleasure from two very different kinds of cameras.

    On the "serious" camera side, though: the 5D holds a better flash much more easily, in my experience, and sometimes just having it, I have had people at events actually get out of my way for a shot with my "serious" camera, lol. But it is certainly far more conspicuous, and at least with my 5D, you HAVE to use the OVF, so it's pretty obvious when you are shooting. I've learned to love the heft and feel, though, when I don't need to lug it around for hours!

    Here are two m43 pics:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    and a full frame
    [​IMG]

    I love both!
     
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  7. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I'm glad you brought that up, because it's a great point. This is the whole reason I got a GH3; the G5 was almost there but lacked the manual controls and slightly larger grip I wanted.

    The GH3 has incredibly comfortable ergonomics for me too. I would say the GH3 is at least as comfortable as the DSLR, only with much less heft. As you said, it pretty much fits my hand like a glove, and the lighter weight means it's likely to be more comfortable for a long period of shooting. I don't mind the DSLR's weight so far, but I'll add that I've only been working with a 24-85mm and 50mm lens on the DSLR. Get into 70-200mm territory and I'd just as soon take the GH3 and 35-100mm to carry around all day :biggrin:
     
  8. dnightingale

    dnightingale Mu-43 Regular

    131
    Oct 12, 2012
    Sydney, Australia
    Darren
    I agree with your comments. A big one for me is battery life. And one example I have (though not M43) is the D7000 & the Nikon 1 V1. Both share the exact same battery, however the Nikon 1 V1 has around half the rated number shots per charge. I know the mirrorless cameras utilise LCD's more, though they also don't drive larger auto focus lenses, or lift mirrors. I think all mirrorless cameras need to pick up the game in battery life.

    The psychology of DSLR v M43 is really interesting. Often friends and people see me with both my DSLR and OMD. They almost always have am inherent disposition to wow over the DSLR with big lens, and make a more passing comment about the OMD or X-Pro1.

    It doesn't really bother me. I just smile to myself. when I show them images, while I can tell some differences, they generally can't. Sometimes it's very difficult to tell images apart when comparing, and sometimes it's really evident. And I'm not talking about DOF or falloff, it's something else. Something that feels unique to M43. It's not bad, or good, just something that makes many of my photos feel M43. I can't explain, and perhaps it's psychology too.
     
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  9. harry_s

    harry_s Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Jul 19, 2011
    Wiltshire, UK
    In which scenarios are a big body/lens a plus?

    On a purely practical level I like heavy kit when shooting sports outdoors as the weight dampens the effect of wind etc (I shoot handheld with IS off), but I'm struggling to think of a situation where a client would expect to see big kit.
     
  10. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I don't have clients, so couldn't speak from experience there.

    For my personal uses I find it to be something like shorthand for "I'm a photographer"... it's hard to describe it really. People respond to it as as "oh, you're into photography" when they see it, whereas in the past I've had multiple people ask me "what's with the camera" when I've brought m4/3 cameras and lenses to parties and things like that. On my end, I suspect it also boosts my confidence that people aren't looking at me sideways :biggrin:

    I fully understand the logic behind smaller cameras and lenses being less intimidating and conspicuous, and I agree wholeheartedly that it makes sense. Nonetheless, in practice I've actually felt *more* comfortable with the bigger camera, which is counter to what I expected going into it.
     
  11. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    Weddings in India would be a good example I guess :smile:. AFAIK, photographers are taken seriously at such events only if they're carrying a big camera with a big lens.
     
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  12. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    LOL... :rofl:
     
  13. Kiwi Paul

    Kiwi Paul Mu-43 Top Veteran

    729
    Aug 15, 2011
    Aberdeen Scotland
    BTW Jay I like the pictures you added, nice compositions and the quality looks excellent.

    Paul
     
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  14. dnightingale

    dnightingale Mu-43 Regular

    131
    Oct 12, 2012
    Sydney, Australia
    Darren
    Very true!
     
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  15. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Thoughtful post, well expressed. I got here the other way; the two I've snipped above are what I miss most and why I am still shooting the FX+DX Nikon DSLRs for some situations. There are compromises inherent in every choice. :smile:
     
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  16. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Battery life is a big one for my older full frame DSLR. I can go a very long time without a recharge because it's just not sucking as much power. And, if I leave it "on" it's instantly ready. The mirrorless has to power up again after sleeping. But the other side of the coin is portability, seeing exactly what you are shooting, etc. etc. etc.
     
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  17. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Right... and for the size and weight difference, you can carry a lot of batteries if you wanted to :biggrin:
     
  18. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    For me, I generally don't carry around the FF anyway. It's more for if I am going to someone's house, or around my own house, or a specific shoot (like an event). M43 or RX100 for moving around, and the batteries are small enough to carry at least one more spare (and for me anyway, an additional spare is plenty).
     
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  19. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Vassilios
    After the second to last firmware update (IIRC), battery life has increased a bit (talking about the OM-D). When I'm shooting live performances, for instance, I carry it with the grip and the most common scenario is the first battery will run out by the end of the event. No worries; still have the second one, plus the whole package (OM-D with 3 lenses, usually, sometimes a flash) is so light, that carrying an extra battery or two is a non issue.

    It also depends on the setup. DSLRs also consume power in relation to the lens used (the lens may have no internal motor, for instance, in which case the body motor is used). Also a stabilized lens consumes more power than a non-stabilized one.

    But I do believe that batteries with more capacity, plus better power management would be a good improvement for pro-level :43: bodies. The GH3 already headed in this direction.
     
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  20. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I think so too - I've yet to run my GH3 battery down in a day of shooting, but the rating says that it's good for about 500 shots, 1000 with the battery grip. That's 170 shots more than the G5 rating and definitely headed in the right direction. Especially after working with the G3, which used to eat batteries like candy.