The Telephoto Power of Micro Four Thirds
Full-frame camera hype
There’s been a lot of press in the past four months about the excitement of full-frame cameras. Panasonic jumped in with a new fabulous full-frame system, the Lumix S1, and Lumix S1R. Nikon and Canon finally awoke from the dead and offered their versions as well. It’s a great time to be in photography, but full-frame cameras still require full-frame lenses. Full-frame lenses are big, heavy, and expensive. And this is where MFT excels. Below is a new PDF you can download that shows the 62 different MFT lenses and their respective manufacturers.
I’m excited to someday have a chance to shoot the new Lumix S1R. I may even add it to my gear bag for landscapes. But I won’t be using it for my general wildlife and nature work. I just don’t want to carry the lenses or pay the higher costs of owning the system. For that, I’m sticking with my beloved Lumix MFT system.
This last week I came back from our Yellowstone Winter photo tours where I was shooting the Lumix G9 with the Olympus 300mm and 1.4X teleconverter. That’s 840mm F/4 in full-frame terms, and nobody on the trip came close to the reach I had.
Telephoto power of MFT
Let me share an interesting anecdotal story that happened on the first of our most recent two Yellowstone winter trips. There was a very lovely lady who has traveled with us for years. For many of those years, she’s seen me shooting the smaller, lighter, and less expensive Lumix system. Many trips back I encouraged her to start thinking about the benefits of the smaller cameras. She agreed but brought up her concerns. Things she had heard like, “They have more noise” and, “You can’t print as large.” That conversation with her was many trips ago, and since she was not convinced I eventually quit offering my thoughts.
Fast forward to two weeks ago when she joined us in Yellowstone. She was excited but somewhat hesitant to tell me she had purchased a brand new Nikon D850. I expressed enthusiasm and congratulated her on a wonderful choice since the D850 is a fabulous camera. I encouraged her that I know the Nikon system inside and out. I was excited to help her get up to speed with her new camera. The next four days we did just that.
During those four days, she came to me with some questions about specific images. Her photos, in some cases, were very similar. In fact almost exact replicas of what we had shot together standing side by side. The difference, however, was mine were much closer than what she was able to get with her Nikkor 80-400mm zoom. I was using the LUMIX G9 with the Leica 200mm and a 1.4X teleconverter, an effective reach of 560mm as opposed to 400mm with the Nikon lens.
Some people are very surprised at how much closer my images look than what they’ve shot. However, it’s nothing more than an illusion. Mine are shot with a cropped sensor, so in other words, my camera is cropping the image, just like the cropping so many do who shoot full-frame cameras. Mine are cropped in the field, with no time needed sitting behind a computer in post processing.
I never mentioned any of this to her since she’s a dear friend. Once somebody makes a commitment to a camera they absolutely love they have no interest in being told something different.
But it’s the lenses that make MFT so compelling. Not only do we have over 64 lenses being made and delivered for the MFT system, but they’re smaller, lighter, and much less expensive. There is some truth to the fact we have to deal with more noise at high ISO settings. It’s also true I hesitate to print my MFT images larger than 30×40 inches. But the other benefits so outweigh the two issues I just mentioned that MFT is, in my humble opinion, the only way to go for the vast majority of wildlife and natural history.
During my entire two weeks in Yellowstone, I saw only three of the traditional Canon and Nikon 600mm and 500mm telephotos. Even our snow coach driver commented he sees very few of the big black Nikkors or white Canon lenses any more. It’s changing fast, and I’ve always been keen on keeping my eye on camera technology that moves my work forward. I’m convinced the smaller, lighter lenses allow me many more images due to mobility than the slightly better quality you MIGHT see in a full-frame image. For that, I’m eternally grateful to Panasonic Lumix and Olympus for keeping this amazing system alive and growing.
Size and price
Forgive me if I’ve offended anyone in the publishing of this post. But I’m not going to quit pointing out the benefits of the smaller MFT system. I personally think we’ve all been brainwashed by the big three and that must be exposed at all costs. When a Leica 200mm F/2.8 costs one-third the price of a Canon, Nikon, or Sony, which one do you think the camera manufacturers would like you to buy? It’s not the $2500 Leica I can tell you that.
I don’t want this system to die. Thankfully I’m seeing more and more people shooting the smaller cameras. But we need to keep asking for more from Lumix and Olympus, and we need to support them. Any questions about all of this let me know in the comments below.