Land of giants

So this is the age of the full frames!

Nikon, Canon and shockingly Panasonic [!!!] have all announced or indictated they are joining Sony in the brave new world of full frame mirrorless cameras.

Has anything really changed?

I’m not sure.

These beasts are likely to be so expensive that they remain the preserve of wealthy enthusiasts and pro photographers.  Their lenses remain heavy and the mirrorless versions are sometimes larger to make up for the new mirrorless dimensions. Maybe then everything remains the same just without mirrors.

The approx £2000 price tag will price out many hobbyist photographers, so my main concern is how seriously panasonic will take micro four thirds now. Because if almost everything stays the same, just mirrorless, then the big issue is whether mft as a format will still receive investment.

Now if manufacturers were willing to bring the price of digital cameras down then that would be interesting. If full frame cameras were within reach of more people, and at a price point that recognised that they need replaced every four years, that really would be a thing!!

With all this talk of increased frame rates, megapixels and more and more K video, what I really really want, is an inxepensive, relatively low tech, minimalist full frame camera, that I could afford to replace every few years. And of course, a few decent primes!

I can dream…

Will mft survive this?

It was fun when it lasted but 10 years after the micro four thirds format was launched perhaps the end is night.

A couple of years ago I lamented the ever increasing size of mft cameras and the subsequent loss of their advantage. At the time I mused that thankfully pro end mft cameras remained smaller than their larger format counterparts (https://davebobphotos.com/2016/07/18/is-there-a-benefit-to-micro-four-thirds-cameras-in-street-photography/).

But this is no longer the case. I had read some criticism in the blogosphere about the large size of the Lumix G9. And today I have finally been able to compare it online to Nikon’s full frame mirrorless Z series. They are nearly identical sizes. And for the record the Sony A7 III is smaller than the G9. (See camerasize.com)

The size difference will remain in the lenses. Mft lenses can be smaller and lighter, and because of the crop factor effectively longer. So under certain circumstances I can imagine a comparative advantage to mft.

But for someone shooting primes in the wide to short tele range, I suspect there will be less advantage in mft lenses. And the image quality and noise handling of full frame is likely to persuade many away from mft.

Where mft used to excel was size and price but now both have crept up close to their ff equivalents.

I hope I’m wrong. But if I was a pro or wealthy enthusiast, I’d be hard pushed to consider mft now.

Perhaps Olympus and Panasonic have acquiesced to the ff mirrorless crew. But if not, in my opinion they need to remember the competitive advantage they used to provide by being a little smaller, lighter and cheaper without compromising quality.

Is there a benefit to Micro Four Thirds Cameras in Street Photography?

Most weeks I do a little window shopping at our local camera shop. I seem drawn to opportunities to grow envious of gear that I don’t need and can’t afford. I suppose it’s the chipping away of residual satisfaction with my current camera, so that eventually I persuade myself that a new camera will improve my lacklustre images.

On a recent browse, I was surprised by a couple of new Nikon bodies in the window.  Both were entry level cameras and both were much smaller than I had imagined. In fact they they seemed almost the same size as the Panasonic G7 beside them. To confirm this I did a little research and found a really helpful site called camerasize.com. For example, if you follow the link you’ll see that there is very little difference in size between the Nikon D5500 and the Panasonic G7.

Which got me thinking about the increasing size of successive models of mirrorless camera and in particular the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds (MFT) range (e.g. compare the GH1-GH4, the GX1-GX8 or the G3-G7*). To me the increase in size seems to be counter productive, particularly in terms of Street Photography.

The greatest advantage of mirrorless cameras is their size. Of course you need to include lenses when considering overall system sizes. But since APS mirrorless bodies and DSLR bodies use similarly sized lenses, having bodies the same size clearly diminishes the mirrorless advantage. Even in the case of MFT bodies where lenses can be significantly smaller, a small DSLR body with a small prime may be almost the same size. And in terms of image quality an APS DSLR with a small fast lens might be preferable to a similarly sized MFT body. Clearly this is also an issue which MFT cameras face in relation to APS mirrorless bodies.

There remain clear advantages to using MFT systems in some genres of photography. For example if you are going to carry multiple lenses then MFT bodies will have a size and weight advantage. This might sway a travel or documentary photographer. Similarly film makers may prefer the overall system size when using a Lumix GH4 over a Canon 5D.

But in the case of street photographers who usually want small light cameras, when MFT bodies grow closer in size to APS DSLR and Mirrorless bodies their benefit is reduced. This issue is mainly notable at entry and enthusiast level. Once you move up to the pro cameras, mirrorless systems seem much smaller than their Full Frame DSLR equivalents. However at this end of the scale additional considerations of image quality and relative expense may be of equal importance to body size.

*the LUMIX G series has seen only a small increase in size and G3 was actually smaller than both the G1 and G2. 

March 2018 – I notice the new Lumix GX9 appears smaller than the GX8, perhaps Panasonic have been reading this blog;-)