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Investigative Report: Is Micro Four Thirds Doomed?

Pundits and analysts have debated for years why small, compact Micro Four-Thirds cameras from Panasonic and Olympus have not taken over the world. Significantly smaller and lighter than comparative DSLRs from Nikon and Canon while offering nearly identical image quality, “experts” have been at a lost to explain why they have struggled, offering unsatisfying reasons like cost, image quality, continuous autofocus speed, and so on and so on.

In an effort to determine the reasons once and for all, the brilliant researchers from the NCN Quantitative Image Lab have conducted never-before-seen comparison tests between Micro Four Thirds cameras and full frame DSLRs, the results of which are being debuted here on NCN. Frankly, the team was shocked and amazed at the findings, and had to double and triple check their testing procedures to make sure that no parameter had gone unchecked. But everything checked out, and so we present it to you now, free-range and unfiltered.

Test #1: Man Made Object

This first test photo is a motorcycle taken by a Nikon D800. The exposure range and detail are just what you’d expect by one of the finest cameras available to man.

Moto-FF

This next shot, of the very same motorcycle in the very same conditions, is taken by a Panasonic GH3.

Moto-M43

If you look closely, you will note that the GH3 has rendered details quite well, with exposure range not quite up to D800 levels. But critically, the motorcycle is smaller, much smaller, and with less horsepower and luggage space.

Test #2: Fowl

This second test subject is relatively large and colorful; under the right circumstances, it could probably feed a family of four.

Bird-FF

This shot, taken with a Canon 5DIII, once again show fine resolution and detail, exactly what you’d expect of a top ranked full-frame DSLR.

The same bird taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 is, figuratively speaking, a different animal altogether.

Bird-M43

Once again, the Micro Four-Thirds camera makes a very decent showing for itself, even proving that pleasant bokeh can be extracted from the smaller sensor. But this Micro Four-Thirds bird has much less nutritional value; an average consumer would need to super-size the fries and soda at the Drive Thru.

Test #3: Feline

In this third test, we photographed this ferocious tiger with a chart-topping Canon 1D Mark IX. The results speak for themselves–the detail, the sharpness, and my what big teeth we have!

Cat-FF

The same test subject, taken with a Panasonic GX7, is very nicely drawn, with particularly sharp rendering near the nose. But this cat is much less intimidating than the cat taken with the Canon.

Cat-M43

This cute Micro Four-Thirds kitty, as you might be able to tell, could not hurt a fly.

Conclusion

As this rigorous, lab-certified test shows, Micro Four-Thirds cameras are capable of taking quite nice photos, but at the end of the day, they are no match for the horsepower, caloric intake, and ferocity of photos taken with Full Frame cameras. While we did not test APS-C cameras, our expectations is that they’d fall somewhere in between. At the very least, this test goes a long ways towards explaining why very capable Micro Four-Thirds cameras like the Panasonic GH3 is not being used in pornos. For that industry, size does apparently matter.

Stay tuned as the NCN Quantitative Image Lab tackles more of the vexing questions facing the photography industry like, “Why is the sky blue?”, “Does this lens make me look fat?”, “Are you my mother?”, and others.
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20 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, you are so right, even if too late! Some time ago I ordered on internet a wife from Monglia and didn’t read fine print: All photos shot with Nikon D800, you know what arrived, 5 foot tall witch that looks like Janet Reno!!!

  2. Here’s hoping NCN’s QIL digs deep into other compelling photography debates. I suggest looking into the conspiracy to put the strap lugs in the wrong place on new cameras. What’s up with that?

  3. somewhat glad you didn’t have time to run the ‘full fat’ test….but then again we all have airbrushes anyway!

  4. I’m glad I use micro four thirds. I run less risk of being run over, pecked to death, or mauled. Death by DSLR is not on my bucket list.

  5. By the way, I took a picture of a big fat porcupine with my micro four thirds camera, and it came out looking like an ugly hedgehog.

  6. No wonder a lot of my friends using full frame cameras or even larger APS-C varieties have either shifted to micro FT or way laid their big gear for the “meantime”. They want to savor the advantages of MFT while it’s “alive”…and kicking for that matter. Later on, some of them even sold their full frame gear. I reaLLY REALLY WONDER!!!

  7. Although I agree with you regarding advantages of larger sensor, I fail to see how you come to your conclusion by these examples.

    Sensor size is a little like car sizes. Why are the cars today smaller and lighter than only 40-50 years ago?

    • Trivial: Before cars photography was mostly done by FF… Now it more by mobile user and instagram!

  8. Finally, real proof that photography can change the world. I’ve always believed small people shouldn’t be allowed to use FF cameras.

  9. Is Micro Four Thirds dead as of April 2014?

    Nope. Not even close, really. The micro four-thirds format is growing. It’s got the best selection of lenses, and the most companies making them: Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Sigma, Voigtlander. Tameron, Kenko Tokina, Rokinon, etc. You’ll find more len…

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