Micro Four Thirds Cameras Better in Low Light 

Posted May. 21st, 2022 by Daniel J. Cox

Busting the full-frame myth

Many of my readers know of my enthusiasm for Micro Four Thirds cameras. I love them for the smaller lenses, the system’s lighter weight, and its overall lower costs. But one thing I’ve never argued is Micro Four Thirds cameras are better in low light.

Micro Four Thirds Cameras Are Better in Low Light 

I have professed that we have the ability to clean our low-light images up by using software, taking advantage of computer power that negates the benifits of full-frame. But this article by Mark Wieczorek published in Icecream Geometry has made me think about the subject in more depth. Beware, my brain hurt after trying to digest all the details this gentleman provides. I’ve never been good at math, so I have to take this guy’s word for the argument he presents. Either way, it’s an interesting read.

The software tools I use to process my MFT images

For my work, the software tools I use to negate the benefits of full-frame cameras and make sure that Micro Four Thirds cameras are better in low light are the following.

Digital Asset Management (DAM): Mylio
RAW Processing: DXO PhotoLab 5
Noise Reduction: DXO PhotoLab and Topaz DeNoise
Sharpening: Topaz Sharpen AI
Increase Image Size: On1 Resize AI 2022 and Topaz Gigapixel AI

Tools of the Trade video to show some of my workflow

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There are 6 comments on this post…
  1. Jan SteinmanOn Jun. 10th, 2022

    “Mark Wieczorek compares a 50mm f/4 lens for FF to a 25mm f/2 lens for Micro Four Thirds and notes that the light reaching the FF sensor is “dimmer.” Certainly, but so what. The total count of photons for a given portion of the image is the same.”

    If that were indeed true, then the shutter speed would have to change, given the same ISO.

    This is a common and persistent myth. The aperture is the aperture, just as the focal length is the focal length.

    What you are doing on µ4/3rds is you are blowing up the centre 25% of the image. That is EXACTLY what is happening. No more, no less. The 80,000,000th pixel out of the full frame sensor is not in some mystical way communicating with the other 79,999,999 pixels some secret information to make them “better.”

    The depth of field is a function of reproduction ratio and aperture. Nothing more. If you printed a µ4/3rds image 1/4th the size (1/2 the horizontal pixels and 1/2 the vertical pixels) it would have exactly the same depth-of-field as a full-frame image with the same focal length, aperture, and distance-to-subject.

    A big argument full-frame fanatics make is that they can “blow up bigger.” Well, yea, but what happens to your depth of field then? If you blow up your 8×10 to be 16×20 you will have 1/4th the depth of field!

    “Eq;uivalence” is a mental tool for approximating the way various things change when you change formats. It is not magic, and any experienced photographer can work around it.

  2. Bill TylerOn Jun. 6th, 2022

    I’ll start by saying that I love the Micro Four Thirds system, and sold a bunch of FF equipment to partially fund buying into it. But that article is premised on the idea that you want your depth of field to be equally shallow with the Micro Four Thirds camera as with the full frame camera. For myself, mostly I’m trying for more depth of field, not less. Notice the illustrations in the section titled “Signal to Noise Ratio …”. Mark Wieczorek compares a 50mm f/4 lens for FF to a 25mm f/2 lens for Micro Four Thirds and notes that the light reaching the FF sensor is “dimmer.” Certainly, but so what. The total count of photons for a given portion of the image is the same. And now realize that you can, for example, get a 50mm f/1.2 lens from Canon. The equivalent for Wieczorek’s argument would be an f/0.6 lens for Micro Four Thirds. There are no f/0.6 lenses that I’m aware of for any format. I still love Micro Four Thirds, but not for its low-light performance.

    Theory aside, there’s an easy way to test this. Take two cameras of roughly equal vintage, one of each format, and try shooting in low light with each. Compare results.

  3. MartinBOn Jun. 1st, 2022

    DXO PL showcase was very interesting. Hopefully they will add larger denoise preview in v6, something similar Topaz Denoise AI has since v3.3 or thereabouts. I follow DXO forum and I can tell there are a lots of feature requests from user base. Maybe we will see more AI Luminar stuff in DXO PL in the future.

    Dan, how do you solve geometry correction in DXO PL? Or did you buy the ViewPoint add-on? Capture One has just reworked embedded geometry tool, it is part of the program. The only thing C1 lacks now is the AI denoising tool.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jun. 2nd, 2022

      Interesting you ask about the Geometry Correction. At one time not so long back I found the Geometry Correction inside DXO PhotoLab. Or at least that’s what I thought. DXO says it was never there. I did have a copy of theirDXO Geometry Correction software but I know I did correction WIthIN DXO PhotoLAB. DXO support says no so the onlyother thing I can think of is the DXO Geometry Correction would kick in as a plugin or something that showed up in DXO PhotoLab. That’s how I used to do it but I’m now using Photoshop since it’s no longer seen in DXO. I may update their Geometry Correction software although it would certainly be nice if it were included in DXO PhotoLab.

  4. Len MetcalfOn May. 21st, 2022

    Ohh thank you for sharing that article.

    The advantages of micro four thirds aren’t talked about enough.

    They are easier to use. Greater depth of field is an advantage.

    I just did a shoot with a full frame and then a similar one the next day with my OM1.

    Categorically I prefer the photos and using micro four thirds….

    Now I need to use my micro four thirds at night. And let go of the unfortunate bias I have been told..,

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 22nd, 2022

      I agree with all you said. Thanks for joining the conversation.

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