Known for combining functionality with aesthetics, Olympus is also synonymous with innovation. Their unique features, great design, and ergonomics result in an increasing flow of photographers, both young and old, from other brands to their stable.
There are lots of articles on Fstoppers extolling the virtues of different cameras and brands. I've noticed comments from Olympus users that their cameras' unique features are often forgotten. I've tried to redress that by featuring articles about superb Olympus photographers like Rob Cottle and Ethan Beckler.
Putting the Arguments into Context
Olympus' Digital History
Along with Panasonic, Olympus recognized the future was with interchangeable lens cameras sporting electronic viewfinders, and so they became pioneers of mirrorless systems, switching entirely to Micro Four Thirds (MFT).
That early adoption places them well ahead of the competition with the development of high-performance mirrorless cameras. As the iceberg of doom tears away below the DSLR waterline, other brands are now jumping that sinking ship. Running for the mirrorless lifeboats, they are a long way behind Olympus’s head start.
What About Noise?
As sensors have improved, the noise disadvantage that was brought by those smaller sensors has diminished to an irrelevance when photographing within normal parameters. With the arrival of outstanding noise reduction software such as On1’s NoNoise AI and Topaz Denoise, even working at those rarely needed, extremely high ISOs becomes achievable. As you will see later, Olympus has also found a cunning way of getting around long-exposure noise too.
The Depth of Field Argument
One of the criticisms Micro-Four Thirds faces is the greater depth of field. Detractors always ignore the benefits of that; there are two sides to everything in photography, a benefit for every disadvantage.
Landscape photographers often want more depth of field, and so, they reduce the aperture size. Olympus (and Panasonic Lumix) can achieve the same DOF with wider apertures, removing the image softness issue of diffraction that one would see with full frame at their necessarily small apertures.
Additionally, in areas like portraiture, wildlife photography and macro, there can be too little depth of field. Full frame photographers have to stop down to get more than just the eyes in focus; having eyes sharp but a fuzzy nose tip and ears isn't that great a look. With MFT, that greater depth doesn't require a smaller aperture.
Nevertheless, shallow DOF is perfectly possible with an MFT camera. The shooting parameters are different, but it is still achievable, and Olympus Zuiko lenses produce lovely bokeh.
Why Photographers Are Buying These Cameras
The photographers I’ve met that use Olympus have been a mixed bag. Firstly, there are the exciting young art photographers. They want the convenience the smaller Micro Four Thirds system bring, better image quality than their phones deliver, plus the style that isn’t apparent in chunky-clunky DSLRs. Then, there are those of us who travel and do outdoor activities, where small size, low weight, and weather-sealing is all important. Additionally, there is the older photographer who no longer wants to lug around heavy gear because it hurts. There are also the technology enthusiasts, who like to push their photographic boundaries using advanced features. At the other end of the scale, there are those who just want a small, convenient, and easy-to-use system to take snaps.
Olympus's Unique Selling Points
Here are some major features that you might not know about that give Olympus cameras the edge over others.
1. Live Composite
An easy way of understanding Live Composite mode is to imagine shooting the same image repeatedly and combining the shots as layers into one image. Any subject with the same lighting remains unchanged in the final image. However, new brighter light is added. For example, if you start shooting a subject in the dark and then gradually light paint it, that light painting will appear in the final image. Another application is shooting lightning. The camera will continuously update the first shot you took but only add the lightning to it.
Although not what this is designed for (see Live ND below), I’ve used this technique for simulating the effect of long exposures of moving water. Because moving water is white, it adds that extra light to the original shot, thus smoothing it out. With Live Composite, you can watch the image develop on the rear screen, your phone, or tablet using the free Olympus Image Share app. That app gives you Live View, focus and exposure adjustments, and remote shooting on the bigger screen of your smart phone or tablet.
A big advantage of shooting long exposures this way is that it negates the noise you would usually get. Instead of one long image, you are shooting multiple fast images where noise is not an issue.
Available in the OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OMD E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark III, OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, EPL-10, E-P7, Tough TG-6
Output: raw or JPEG
Great for: product photography, real estate, interiors, lightning, landscapes, long exposures
2 and 3. Live Bulb and Live Time
I’m putting these two together as they do similar things. Most cameras have Bulb Mode. However, with Olympus cameras, Live Bulb allows you watch a long exposure image gradually develop on the back screen, and the histogram moves to the right too. This happens while the shutter is held down or is activated through the Olympus Image Share app.
Olympus took this one stage further with Live Time. Instead of holding the shutter down, you press to start the exposure and once more to end it. Of course, these can be activated wirelessly using the Olympus Image Share App too, thus avoiding camera movement.
Output: raw or JPEG
Great for: long exposures, astrophotography and star trails
Live Bulb available in the OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OMD E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark III, OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, Tough TG-6
Live Time available in the OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OMD E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark III, OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, EPL-10, E-P7,
4. Live ND
If, like me, you like to carry minimal kit, shooting with just a camera, a tripod and maybe have a spare battery in your pocket, having up to five stops (ND32) of ND filter built into the camera brings huge benefits.
This setting gives you a preview of how the image will look before pressing the shutter. How it works is a closely guarded secret, but it is similar in operation to Live Composite mode. Consequently, long-exposure noise is still not an issue as it would be with a long exposure using a physical ND filter. When you set the shot up, a preview of the final image is displayed.
Output: raw or JPEG
Great for: long exposures, shooting bright scenes, removing moving objects (e.g. people) from a scene
OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III,
5. Pro Capture
How good are your reactions? Have you ever just missed that decisive moment? Pro Capture overrides your reaction time by recording and buffering shots to the camera’s memory with the shutter button half pressed. When you fully press the shutter, up to 35 of those buffered frames are recorded to the memory card. If you don’t press the shutter, the memory is cleared.
Output: raw or JPEG
Great for: wildlife, sports, pets, children, theater, action
Available in: OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OMD E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark III, Tough TG-6
6. 60 Frames Per Second Raw
OMDs can shoot up to 60 raw files per second with single autofocus, or 18 with continuous autofocus.
Output: raw or JPEG
Great for: sports, wildlife, action
Available in OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OMD E-M1 Mark II,
7. High Resolution
Olympus cameras use their sensor shift technology to create images up to 80 megapixels in resolution, equal to many medium format cameras. The latest version of this even allows it to work handheld up to 50 megapixels. The camera shifts the sensor by one micron and fires off images in quick succession, combining them into a single image.
Great for: macro, still landscapes, interiors, architecture, product, astrophotography, and still life
Output: raw and JPEG
Available in: OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OMD E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark III,
8. Crop Factor
The crop sensor means you can get closer to the action with the same focal length. A 300mm lens has the same field of view (effectively, the same magnification) as a 600mm lens.The Canon RF 600mm f/4 prime lens weighs 6.8 lbs / 3,100 g, meanwhile the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4 IS PRO weighs 2.4x less at 1,270g. Both contain 17 elements, have 9 rounded aperture blades, and have built-in image stabilization, which on Olympus cameras works in conjunction with the In-Body Image Stabilization. That Canon lens costs just shy of $13,000, whereas the Olympus is under $2,900.
Great for: wildlife, sports, photojournalism, street photography, weddings, travel, outdoor adventure, remote landscapes
Available in all Olympus cameras
9. Close Focusing
Micro Four Thirds allow for much closer minimum focussing distance than larger formats. The lenses can often be pushed beyond their recommended minimum focusing distances too
Great for: macro, product photography, abstracts
10. Telecentric Optical Path
Often overlooked, the design of Micro Four Thirds means that the photons traveling from the lens do so at 90 degrees to the sensor right across the frame. This means that there is no darkening (vignetting) at the edge of the frame as there is with the other systems where the photons hit the edge of the sensor obliquely.
Great for: all photography
11. Shorter Flange Distance
The distance between the back of the lens and the sensor is greatly reduced. For those of us who shoot with vintage lenses, the addition of a simple extension tube without any glass elements will allow that lens to focus to infinity. Adapting vintage lenses with different mounts to fit most cameras means losing the ability to bring infinity into focus, unless the adaptor has extra glass elements.
Great for: all photography
12. In-Body Image Stabilization
Standard in all Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras, Olympus offers up to 7.5 stops of image stabilization, having found a way to overcome the IS limitations caused by the Earth’s rotation. I have managed to handhold a 45mm lens mounted on an old E-M5 Mark II for 1.5 seconds, and the newer cameras perform much better than that.
Great for: all photography
Available in all Olympus cameras
13. Extreme Conditions
Going back to 2010, when Olympus launched the E-5 DSLR, the internet was strewn with images of it being used covered in ice and snow. Since then, the environmental seals of the OM-D E-M1 series of cameras have come even further. The flagship E-M1X has inherited the sealing from the Olympus Tough compacts and is guaranteed to the formal rating of the IPX1 operating environment. The range of operating temperatures is from -10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and up to 90% humidity.
Great for: all outdoor photography
Available in: OM-D E-M1 X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OMD E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark III, Tough TG-6 and all pro lenses
14. Amazing Customer Support
Here in the UK, the Olympus team is running interactive live tutorials and interviews twice a week almost every week of the year. You don't have to be in the UK to join in with these. Furthermore, if you are befuddled by anything your camera is doing, you can book a one-to-one session online with any of their technical experts who will help you get to know your camera.
15. Weight and Size
Have you ever ended up with neck ache from lugging a heavy DSLR all day? With aging populations, older photographers no longer want to suffer sore necks and backs from carrying excessively heavy kit around.
Because Micro Four Thirds have smaller sensors, the camera bodies and lenses are smaller and lighter too. This is great news for those who want to travel with their camera gear. An OM-D E-M1 Mark III weighs just 580 g including the battery and memory card. Add to that the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5 6.3 (455 g) lens, which covers a huge focal length range, and you have a versatile kit weighing just over a kilo, or 2.28 lbs.
16. Intelligent Subject Detection Autofocus
AI technology in the E-M1 X allows the camera to recognize and focus on and track the eyes of birds as well as a range of vehicles. Further subjects are promised to be added to this function in future updates.
Great for: bird photography, moving vehicles
Available in OM-D E-M1 X
Your Turn to Comment
Are there essential, unique features your camera has that sets it apart from other brands? Okay, I know that you will be as dedicated to your brand and format as Olympus users are to theirs. All of the major manufacturers make great cameras, and so, please keep your replies positive and on topic about unique features that you cherish or wish you had.
Images used with permission of OM Digital Solutions.
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I’m an Olympus user, having got into m4/3 firstly because of the advantages for underwater macro. Now I’m expending to doing more topside photography with the m4/3 system. I was not aware of the point about a telecentric optical path. Thanks for the article (and for not posting someone else’s video!)
There are quite a lot of us writing original articles and sharing what we know. I have shared one other video which I found interesting, but I prefer writing originals. But, saying that, it is useful to have all these resources appearing in one place too, it saves me time searching for stuff I probably wouldn't find on YouTube.
Yes, and I really appreciate the articles that you, Christopher, Jason, Scott, and others put together!
There’s so many cool systems out there that I wish I could afford to play with, like m4/3… maybe someday! I also didn’t know about the telecentric optical path you mentioned.
Very true. Here in the UK, Olympus have a system called Test and Wow, where you can borrow kit for a few days to give it a try. It's just started up again after the pandemic restrictions. If you want to get your hands on an Olympus camera, you could see if a shop near you have that running.
Unlike most APS-C crop-sensor cameras, µ4/3rds has a complete range, from beginner to top-end pro.
(Most APS-C cameras from the major vendors don't extend up to the pro end, because Canikony doesn't want their crop-sensor cameras competing with their full-frame models, which have a larger markup.)
You can get into µ4/3rds inexpensively, see how you like it, then "trade up" if you run up against limitations in your first pick. Or, you can "flip it" without losing very much, as Olympus gear tends to hold its value.
You can get a used E-M10 "beginner" µ4/3rds body for well under $200 (https://www.ebay.com/itm/195371915792) That will leave you plenty left out of your two c-notes to buy a adaptor for whatever lenses you already have.
At the high end, the flagship OM-1 with the outstanding 150-400mm ƒ/4.5 lens will set you back almost $10,000 — with capabilities you can't touch in a Canikony for under twice that much.
So, "someday" doesn't have to be very far off in the future. You probably spend more than $200 on coffee in a month!
That's very true. Thank you for commenting.
Of course Olympus lenses vignette but they have automatic correction profiles programmed into the the lens firmware.
Try turning off lens shading compensation and see for yourself: https://unlockingolympus.com/2019/03/shading-compensation-in-camera/
Telecentric lenses do help reduce aberrations, & improve corner/edge sharpness though.
If you believe Wikipedia: "Telecentric optical path means that light hitting the sensor is traveling closer to perpendicular to the sensor, resulting in brighter corners, and improved off-center resolution, particularly on wide angle lenses."
The analogy I use is that the photosites are like light-collecting cups. With non-telecentric lenses the light from the edges of lens travels at a greater angle, and so the photons don't fall directly into the cups and so are darker than those in the middle where the light is directly aimed at the cups.
That's a useful link, thank you.
"Of course Olympus lenses vignette"
You're making stuff up. Stop it.
The only vignetting I've seen on a µ4/3rds camera is with adapted C-mount movie lenses, which are designed for a 1" image circle.
Ivor, back in the eighties, I almost bought the Olympus OM 4 but went for Nikon instead. You list some nice features here. I'd like to have 1 to 6 in my Nikons as well. But I can live without them. I stumbled over position 10 (Telecentric Optical Path). My understanding of such lenses is, that they are used in other fields (e.g microscopy) than regular photography. So I checked it - and yes - such lenses are not used in regular photography as the images they produce would look weird. I found this site:
Are you sure about Position 10? If so, please elaborate why.
I also find that 11,12,13 are not the unique anymore. Thanks for the article!
(Btw: At the time I am using the tiny Nikon AF-D 28-200 f/3.5-5.6 G with a close focus distance of around 40cm, even at 200mm)
Hi Jan, Thanks for replying. Yup, I am sure about 10. I ran these points past OMDS before publishing. It's been a feature of Olympus and Panasonic camera since 2003.
"Telecentric optical path means that light hitting the sensor is traveling closer to perpendicular to the sensor, resulting in brighter corners, and improved off-center resolution, particularly on wide angle lenses." That's from Wikipedia page for Four Thirds and the same applies for MFT too.
As Canon and Nikon push into the mirrorless market, with varying degrees of success and disaster, I believe they are copying the technology.
That 28-200 was a great walk around lens. The specified MFD was 1.5 m at 200 mm and 0.85 m at 28 mm. A lot of lenses you can push beyond that. Getting 40 cm from it is blooming good going.
Ivor, I still think, the lenses are not telecentrc. Olympus says:
" What are telecentric optics used for?
In everyday photography, a conventional lens works just fine for capturing high-quality images.
But microscopy is another story. In many applications, such as the aerospace and automotive industries, inspectors must make precise measurements from microscope imaging. Microscopes with conventional optics cannot deliver the level of accuracy needed."
"A telecentric lens design helps reduce this problem but still leaves a smaller sensor, with smaller pixels, more sensitive to the angle of incoming light, among other things producing a more pronounced image corner light fall off."
So I guess, the lenses are NOT telecentric optics. It would really look weird (see the link above and the graphics of the rail), but they were designed using telecentric technique _to avoid_ the problem of the smaller sensor with vignetting.
Btw: conventional sensors do have microlenses before their light sensitive areas to avoid vignetting:
Conclusion: What you wrote is not wrong. But it is a marketing thing with no real advantages over other techniques to avoid vignetting (microlenses) and it is misleading. I wouldn't consider 10 as an advantage.
There is another version of the 28-200mm than the one you refer to, the G version focuses as close as 44cm, see the scales on the image above. That said: It is possible to design small lenses for FX DSLR-bodies too and ML-bodies. But on the contrary, the lenses got bigger and bigger the last years.
I really think that sponsored articles should be labeled as such.
It might not have been sponsored, it might have been a good opportunity to use affiliate links though. This is a business after all.
They are. This isn't sponsored.
I have sort of a question/comment regarding sensor sizes (I am not a professional photographer but a physicist): The depth of field should not depend on the f-number but on the absolute aperture (i.e. the diameter of the diaphragm in millimeters). Hence one should get the same depth of field on a smaller sensor if one picks a lens which has a shorter focal length (to compensate for the crop factor) while keeping the absolute aperture. This results in a smaller f-number due to the shorter focal length.
So if I move from full frame to APS-C with a crop factor of 1.6, I could swap e.g. an 80mm f/6.3 with a 50mm f/4 lens. This should give me the same field of view and the same depth of field. Incidentally both systems would collect the same amount of light, so if I reduce the ISO setting of the sensor to keep the shutter speed the same, I should get in theory the same sensor noise (each pixel gets the same amount of light, just concentrated on a smaller area for the smaller sensor size).
If this is true (I am not sure, please correct me if there is a mistake), what is exactly the benefit of bigger sensor sizes? Probably both lenses and sensors can have a higher quality because of certain physical limits: e.g. image quality of the lens is more difficult to maintain for lower f-numbers even if the image circle can be smaller, as the optical paths get more extreme. Also I can imagine that the absolute pixel size in sensors has some influence, as small pixels might have a lower dynamic range (can collect fewer electrons before being "full") and might more easily influence the neighboring pixels.
Am I understanding this right? This would explain why with more and more advancing technologies the differences become more irrelevant. I personally like my full frame mirror less camera and see a great improvement over my previous APS-C DLSR, but there were also ~10 years of development in between (EOS RP vs 7D)...
The bigger pixels you get on an equivalent 35mm sensor should provide better low light capabilities and I think also something to do with colour accuracy, but modern cameras are that good the differences are indeed negligible in the main, and only useful in certain shooting situations.
So long story short, just buy the system you want to use and enjoy it, leaving the gearheads to measurebate over this stat and that stat, they will never ever be happy unless they are trying to belittle another persons choice of camera.
"The bigger pixels you get on an equivalent 35mm sensor should provide better low light capabilities" - I agree, but the typical argument is that bigger pixels collect more light. The argument holds if you keep the f-number and focal length the same. It is untrue though if you keep the aperture the same and change the focal length by the crop factor, since the same amount of light is then just concentrated onto a smaller area, so each pixel still gets the same amount of light.
"just buy the system you want to use and enjoy it," Of course, right now I am just curious about the physical background of this very true statement.
My comment was more around larger pixels supposedly handling noise better than smaller ones, I’ve not read too much into it and only going by (mainly biased) comments I read on forums about the supposed advantages.
I do know one thing, people don’t half get emotionally involved in the whole debate around equivalence and specifically why full frame cameras are better than any other format, it’s quite sad really.
I think we pretty much agree here :-)
Larger pixels handle noise better at the same ISO setting. If you go with a smaller f-number and keep the exposure time the same, the ISO setting must be reduced. I think this is what many people simply forget.
Aren't there physical laws making it difficult to create m43 (or smaller) lenses that keep up with say full frame this way? For "normal" equipment it might not be an issue, but when it comes down to it; won't a physically larger lens always have the potential to collect more light? Or will m43 always win because that lens will always concentrate that light onto a smaller sensor? Hm ... does the size of the mount itself play a role (ref Nikon F vs. Canon)?
Not sure, I shoot APS-C and enjoy using it, in all manner of different shooting situations, and that’s the only thing that matters to my personal use case.
People are obsessed with depth of field, or lack thereof, so they chase fast aperture lenses on larger sensors, and some like to preach that this effect is not able to be replicated on smaller sensors. I guess they don’t enjoy photography as much.
No joy outside asp-c format? Hm, well ... perhaps you should consider m43 ;-)
I would if I was looking to change, or waste a load of money changing… just as well I’m not.
I usually buy second hand gear so I can swap for maximum joy with little expenses.
I won my camera in a competition and I’m still using it, alongside both new and used gear so I won’t be wasting money on switching systems or supposed upgrades any time soon.
Nice to know...
Yes clearly it gets more and more difficult to build lenses with a smaller and smaller f-number. So in a sense, the advantage of bigger sensors is that one can build better lenses for it.
I think that's in line of what I have read a couple of times now: choose the camera by the lenses, not the sensor size. IMO it just helps to realise that one does not only have to multiply then focal length with the crop factor for comparison, but also the f-number.
Jon Martin Solaas wrote: "won't a physically larger lens always have the potential to collect more light?"
By that argument, microscopes should make horrible images!
"Or will m43 always win because that lens will always concentrate that light onto a smaller sensor?"
I think that's closer to the truth. It comes with a hidden and rarely-mentioned advantage: focal reducers!
Old vintage lenses sparkle up nicely when you put them on a decent focal reducer. The better the lens, the more the improvement! My favourite combo is the Olympus OM System 100mm ƒ/2 on a Metabones Speedbooster Ultra, (effective 70mm ƒ/1.4). This ~30-year-old lens rivals any recent design on the Metabones!
You are correct. Same number of photons == same S/N. In many situations there’s no advantage to larger sensors. The difference is in the shooting envelope, and availability of wide aperture lenses.
Shooting envelope is just the lighting conditions under which you can capture a properly exposed photo. By virtue of having larger entrance pupils at the same f-stop and field of view, a FF camera can work in lower lighting conditions by trading off DOF. Small sensored cameras could make up for that a bit by using wider apertures, of course, but there’s limits. To take a the equivalent image of an f/1.4 lens on FF would require an f/0.7 lens on µ4/3, of which there are none, and the f/0.95 lenses out there are manual only and expensive.
Larger pixels are largely irrelevant except in cases where pixels can be fully saturated, in which case the larger electron capacity of the larger pixel allows for a higher signal to be recorded and hence a higher S/N and DR. This is the light side of the shooting envelope, but in many situations it’s irrelevant (scene doesn’t have more DR than a smaller sensor can record) or can be worked around (bracketing/HDR/clever post tricks). Or you can just decide what’s important and expose for that. It is nice to be able to handle those situations in a single exposure, though.
Great explanation, thank you!
Actually, µ4/3rds does better than FF in low light!
You are absolutely correct, if two system have the same aperture (intended as physical aperture, measured in mm, not f number) and they have the same image framing, given an exposure time the final image will be identical as far as SNR and depth of field go.
Larger sensor are mainly better for three reason: first, just like you said it's easier to build "extreme" lenses for FF than it is (in this case) for M43. Think f/1.4 or even f/1.2 lenses, you can find some that perform fantastically even in corners while all the f/0,7 and f/0.6 (which I don't even think exist on M43) are garbage.
f/2.8 lenses aren't even considered super fast anymore on FF and you can find plenty zooms which perform great, some with affordable prices like the Tamron for Sony or the new Sigma ART for mirrorless, in M43 I'm not aware of any f/1.4 zoom, the closest match is the f/3.4 equivalent 10-25 f/1.7 from Panasonic which is really expansive.
Second, signal to noise ratio overall (let's say you're exposing both sensors at ISO 100 till they are full) is 2x better on FF since you are gathering 4 times more light.
Third: dyanamic range cuz of bigger pixels.
Pixel size has no effect on signal to noise ratio if you compare (for example) a 24mpx FF to a 24mpx M43, it's a misconception derived from the fact that it's actually the sensor size and total amount of light gathered to cause the difference, and the proof is comparing cameras like the A7rIII to the GH5S, same exact pixel size, 2 stop advantage for the Sony if the F number and exposure time are the same.
Same tired, old arguments, based on belief, rather than evidence.
The "total light" argument has been dreamed up for people to justify their reasons for avoiding µ4/3rds.
It's been awhile since I actually studied all this stuff, but I'm pretty sure depth of field is determined by three factors: focal length, aperture, distance from subject/main focal point, and the size of the film/sensor. All this equivalence is a sort of nonsense. Focal length is a physical measurement of the lens, and the f-stop is calculated by physical properties, t-stop is used to determine the light transmission. I still haven't understood this current obsession with shallow depth of field and bokeh. It certainly doesn't make your photos and videos more "cinematic", ask any decent cinematographer.
I merely wanted to discuss the influence of the sensor size on the depth of field from a scientific point of view. This is neither nonsense nor an obsession (having mainly only f/4 lenses I am certainly not obsessed with shallow depths of field).
Actually, you can reduce DoF to just *two* factors: focal ratio, and reproduction ratio.
Note that focal ratio (commonly mis-named "aperture") is the ratio between focal length and focal width, so that covers two of your terms.
Likewise, reproduction ratio nicely covers the combination of subject distance and sensor size.
When you reduce the formula this way, it becomes simple to understand that to have the same amount of bokeh, you can either *increase* the focal ratio (ƒ/stop), or *decrease* the distance to the subject!
With µ4/3rds, I can get all the bokeh I want, unlike full-frame photographers, who often have trouble getting all the depth-of-field that they want.
Very good depiction of the strengths of the Olympus system. I became an Olympus user after a long trip in Europe in-and-out of trains and buses carrying my Nikon gear. Had enough, so I started looking around and settled on Olympus for all the reasons mentioned here. Haven't looked back, specially with the release of the magnificent PRO line of lenses, not to mention that firmware updates almost give you a new camera. And about the noise and dynamic range issue, my experience is that with the wonderful IBIS of these cameras, I pretty much shoot hand-held at 200 ISO just about all the time, regardless of the shutter speed. The sensor noise is extremely well controlled, and the new AI noise-reduction software, just do away with the need to pay $2,000+ to achieve comparable results in other systems. Olympus was doing something very well, and we can only hope that the new company continues in the same direction.
My communications with OMDS UK were hugely positive. I think there is a bright future ahead.
One advantage you didn't mention is that due to the fact the Micro four thirds system has a uniform mount, unlike say Full frame and APS-C offerings from other manufactuters, all of the lenses available fit all of the cameras.
That is very true, Malcolm. Thanks!
The claim that a smaller sensor "can achieve the same DOF with wider apertures, removing the image softness issue of diffraction" isn't accurate.
All else being equal, if you match DOF then you'll also have the same softening in the image due to diffraction, regardless of sensor size.
For example, landscape shots taken at f/8 on micro four thirds and f/16 on full frame will have the same issue of diffraction.
As a macro photographer I wish that wasn't the case. I could shoot with a small sensor camera for loads of DOF without worrying about the softening that comes with very small apertures. Unfortunately the reality is that no format has an inherent advantage when it comes to this issue.
Olympus does give you flexible focus bracketing, as well as focus stacking, in some cameras. I’ve not made much use of it yet, though, so I can’t say much about how well it works.
I primarily shoot macro with my Panasonic G9 & GX9. They both have a focus bracketing feature and (on the G9 especially) it works pretty well.
The problem is that it requires a subject that will stay nice and still for multiple shots. I'm often shooting active insects (I like capturing their behaviour) so stacking, either in camera or in post, just isn't an option.
In that situation, it comes down to trying to find the best balance between depth of field and diffraction softening, i.e. getting enough of the subject in focus without having to stop down so much that nothing is sharp. For that particular compromise I don't find that sensor size makes much difference.
I bought a 105mm sigma ef-s macro lens once, it's a great macro lens, but like all macro lenses has a shallow depth of field it was an F2.8. In order to capture insects in motion I prefer to use a zoom at its closest focusing distance. You can then get a depth of field of around 6cm with ease and provided your shutter speed is high enough it can be crisp. No need for a dedicated lighting set up either.
I tend to use a 100-400mm zoom for larger insects like butterflies and dragonflies. I also shoot small insects that need a lot more magnification than a zoom can provide (without adding accessories like extension tubes or close up lenses on the filter thread). Shooting much beyond 1:1, e.g. something ant sized, there's barely any DOF even at extremely narrow apertures.
I'm follow your argument, Steve. But, f/8 is f/8 no matter that camera it is mounted on. It's the ratio of the focal length to the aperture. The diffraction at f/8, the light bending around the aperture blades, is the same no matter the size of the sensor. Likewise, at f/16 it is the same no matter what camera it's fitted on, there will the same amount of diffraction. It's a feature of the lens not the camera.
f/16 on a full frame doesn't have the same DOF as f/8 on a MFT camera. Contrary to popular belief, the DOF calculation is actually more complex than a straight ratio of sensor sizes- see the formula in the attached image.
D = Depth of Field. N is the f/number, C is the circle of confusion, U is the distance to the in-focus plane, f is the focal length.