Micro Four Thirds vs. Full Frame Nikon (Fx) – Part 2

Image quality

This is a particularly interesting area as I have found each absolutely have their uses – I find the Olympus EM5 with Panasonic 20mm f1.7 to be a really nice camera for social outings where the full frame Nikon makes me look a bit ridiculous! I also find micro four third cameras to be easier to hand off to people that don’t know much about photography and they are easily able to get shots that are in focus and actually look good. Whereas with the Nikon, I would say there are definitely more failures than successes (although live view helps marginally). It’s an interesting change in peoples experience that people are so used to smartphones and camera’s without viewfinders they often look lost as they try and work out what they should do with it.

Below is a cross section of images all taken with the Olympus EM5 and a mixture of Panasonic 45mm f2.8, Panasonic 100-300mm, Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and Olympus 75mm f1.8

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The other reason I like the Olympus for social and people pictures is they are just a bit more flattering on people, whereas with Full Frame you tend to get a more “realistic” portrayal of what is in front of the camera which how do I put this… some can find unflattering. 🙂

And below is a cross section of images from the Nikon Df. I realize this is a very subjective discussion but I think it is good to see a range of images from both:

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Whereas for out and out image quality the full frame Nikon wins hands down. I use it for the majority of my photography and I love it’s low light performance which is incredible. You can easily shoot 12,800 ISO with image quality that is still completely usable (for my purposes).

Winner: Nikon Df/Fx

Size and weight

This is an area where the Micro Four Thirds format really comes into its own. If you are like me, and do a reasonable amount of travelling and want a camera that you can take everywhere, then sometimes a large DSLR can be a bit on the bulky side. For a long time I happily carried around the EM5 with 20mm 1.7, Panasonic Leica 45mm 2.8 and the Olympus 75mm f1.8 and you wouldn’t even notice the weight. Whilst I believe the Nikon Df is one of the lighter weight full frame slr’s available, by the time you add a lens other than something like a 50mm f1.8D it quickly becomes a far larger beast than something like the EM5. Now it is not a weight that bothers me, it’s actually more the space they take. It’s amazing how something like the Nikon 35mm f1.8G doesn’t or 85mm 1.8G don’t look that much larger, they actually are just bulky enough that you notice them taking far more space than the m43 equivalent.

One taken with the Nikon coupled with the Tamron 150-600mm
One taken with the Nikon coupled with the Tamron 150-600mm

So in summary, they both have their place and I now use them for different things. The EM5 whenever I want something a little less intrusive and the Nikon when I want the best IQ that I can get.

Winner: Olympus EM5/Micro Four Thirds

Lens selection and cost

This is an interesting one, I actually found coming from Olympus to Nikon a little overwhelming just trying to understand all the different lens types that exist simply due to the simple fact that Nikon have been making lenses for this mount (in one form or another) for a very long time. You have to learn all the AI, AIS, D, G variants and which are AF or manual. So once you have that down, it is amazing the options available, although one of the reasons I actually like Micro Four Thirds is its more limited, and easier to follow lens selection. The quality of the lenses for Micro Four Thirds from both Olympus and Panasonic are excellent and I have loved using the likes of the Panasonic 20mm f1.7, Panasonic Leica 45mm Elmarit f2.8 and Olympus 75mm f1.8. What I will say though is that any kit lens I have tried with this format removes a lot of the benefit of this format and leaves you with something not that much better than a new iPhone. So I only really love this format when coupled with one of their better lenses. Interestingly the Panasonic 45mm f2.8 remains one of my favourite lenses I have ever owned. It had a unique character that I cant quite explain but I like the images I got from that, every bit as any of my Nikon lenses. I would say the absolute sharpness of the m43 format is probably a little higher than Nikon Fx, and I say that in the context of the smaller sensor. With the best m43 lenses you can easily shoot wide open and it will be pretty much as sharp as if you stop it down a little. Whereas with Nikon Fx lenses, there is a noticeable difference with pretty much every lens I have tried between wide open and closed down to f2.8 and beyond. That was definitely a learning curve as with m43 I never really had to think about shooting f8 or beyond.

EM5 coupled with the Oly 40-150mm f2.8
EM5 coupled with the Oly 40-150mm f2.8

Then the other interesting adjustment I had to make was with the much shallower depth of field with Fx if you actually want the background to be in any way in focus you have to stop down a lot, which in turn often increases the ISO which with the Df has a fair amount of leeway in that area but still an interesting point.

Winner: tie, but for different reasons

Conclusion

I decided to write this as it’s a topic that is often heavily debated – but actually in my experience I am happy owning both formats. If I could only chose one though… it would be the Df. I absolutely love the overall IQ and it’s ability to shoot in low light set it apart from anything from Panasonic & Olympus. I really like the look and feel of so many m43 cameras like the Panasonic GX8, the Olympus Pen’s and the EM series and would love to upgrade my EM5 when the next big generation shift happens like what they did with the EM5 – but for now I am quite happy owning and using both. I hope you have found this of interest, but always happy to hear others thoughts on this topic.

To revisit part 1 of this article, please follow this link

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