The MFT or M43 aka Micro Four Thirds camera system was developed by Panasonic and Olympus in 2008.
It evolved from the Four Thirds standard from 2003 which was used for early-generation DSLR cameras.
M43 cameras have a 4 by 3 aspect ratio (compared to Full Frame 3 by 2) and are mirrorless interchangeable lens digital cameras.
This system has pros and cons, which I will cover in this article, and then I will talk about whether they are better for timelapse photographers.
Some more context: As you may know, I own a bunch of cameras, I still have my Canon 6DMkII and 1DXMkII DSLRs, I have a Lumix S1 and S5 which I use often, I have a few bridge cameras like the Lumix FZ82 and Nikon P1000 and since earlier this year I also have my first Micro Four Thirds camera, the Lumix GH6, which is what the above video was filmed on.
I have recently started using the GH6 more and more because it is a really powerful little camera.
I’ve come to really love this camera, which is not something I ever expected considering I’m so used to full frame, and I’m using it more and more, which is what prompted the article you are reading right now.
Let’s review the pros and cons lists, then talk about M43 for timelapse photographers.
The positives of Micro Four Thirds for timelapse photographers
- Most M43 cameras are relatively small and lightweight, which means you won’t end up with a painful back as easily. As someone with two bulging disks, do not take this matter lightly!
- They are relatively more affordable compared to most full-frame cameras. There are exceptions, but generally, they are cheaper.
- Most modern-day M43 cameras come packed with features, the GH6 has ProRes recording, synchro scan filming and so much more.
- The lens mount is an open standard, which means you can mix and match lenses, I can use Olympus lenses without a problem, kind of like the L-mount alliance. So you can find a ton of lenses that fit on your camera. You can even get an affordable adapter like the K&F one mentioned in the video, which means you can now use the majority of your other glass as well.
- Because of the smaller sensor size, you get a factor 2 crop compared to full-frame sensors. This effectively turns my 70-200 into a 140-400mm lens.
- Depending on how you look at it, the battery life can be better than full-frame mirrorless cameras.
- The aspect ratio of the sensor makes your footage easier to crop for social media, kind of like the new GoPro sensor which is almost square. You can decide on a square, widescreen, or portrait crop in post more easily on a 4 by 3 sensor compared to a 3 by 2.
So a pretty extensive list of positives, let me know if I’ve missed anything, now let’s have a look at the negatives.
The negatives of Micro Four Thirds for timelapse photographers
- The GH6 is the largest resolution M43 camera and tops out at 25 megapixels. Most new FF cameras are around 35 to 45 megapixels, which is a vast difference.
- Smaller sensor size means a smaller photo pixel size, which means they capture less light than full frame pixels, which means they aren’t as good in low light. This obviously affects nighttime and astro photography, more on that later.
- You need faster glass to get similar DOF shots. The larger the sensor, the more shallow your DOF, this goes the opposite way too of course, so it’s harder to get creamy bokeh when shooting portraits.
- The autofocus used to be worse than FF cameras, however, I have no complaints about the AF on the GH6 at all!
- This one’s a weird one and is really niche, but depending on your environment or your client, because of the size of the camera and lenses, you might not be perceived as a “true professional”. This is a laughable thing in my opinion, as it’s the end result that matters, not the kit, but for some shallow people, it’s just how they operate.
Now, to get to the point of the video, is a Micro Four Thirds camera system better for timelapse photographers?
It depends on what you shoot!
If you’re focusing on astrophotography, then it’s definitely not ideal.
If you focus on landscapes and cityscapes and general travel though, them the smaller size and weight can be really beneficial.
Pack more lenses in the same backpack compared to full frame.
If you’re a long-shot nut, who loves shooting tight shots of the moon and sun, then M43’s crop factor is really helpful for you.
Keep in mind this also goes the other way, you need a wide lens to get super wide shots.
The aspect ratio is useful for cropping wide or portrait or square in post.
If you want ultra-high-resolution content then you need more pixels, so it really depends on where you publish your work.
So, to conclude this article, it depends.
What do you think?
Regarding depth of field – for people like me who prefer more rather than less m43 is a better option. I would have to close down the lens on a ff camera 2 more stops to get the same depth of field. In low light, where I would need to maintain a minimum shutter speed, I would have to increase ISO on the full frame camera to get the same angle of view (via 2x the focal length) while maintaing the same dof and shutter. The ff low light advantage is therefore lost in this scenario.