Photography - Gear/Equipment

DSLR vs Micro 4/3 Cameras: What's the Difference?

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If you own a DSLR, you know that it's creation had undoubtedly been a great achievement. With technological advancements, several changes were made. But, apart from the sensors that were made more advanced and an improved auto focus, nothing much has changed. Oh, and of course with the introduction of Nikon D90 in the year 2008, taking videos was also made possible. But, has there been any other significant change? No. However, in the same year that the D90 was launched, Panasonic and Olympus introduced their Micro Four Thirds format.

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The Micro Four Thirds camera is a comparatively new format but has been able to become quite popular right since its introduction. It also has in some way been able to become a format that many people regard as equal to DSLR’s and in some cases even better than that.

DSLR Vs. Micro 4/3 Cameras: The Differences That Count

DSLR Vs. Micro 4/3
The Camera Conflict: Who Will Win?(Source)

Listed below are a few key differences between the micro four thirds and the DSLR’s so that you can pick the best one for yourself.

Auto Focus

A DSLR has a ‘Phase Detect Auto Focus’ while the micro 4/3 cameras have a combination of Contrast Detect and Phase Detect auto focus.

  • Contrast-detect Autofocus

The Contrast-detect Autofocus makes use of the image sensor and makes the camera change the focus until the contrast from one pixel to another is the highest. This process is very slow when the subject is constantly on the move, it can be quite difficult to focus. During action photography, when the camera is continuously moving, it cannot understand which way it needs to focus and hence needs time to focus.

  • Phase-detect Autofocus

The Phase-detect Autofocus makes use of a dedicated sensor which basically creates two images by splitting the light. It then focuses on them until the two images combine and appear together on the focus sensor. The sensor also measures as to how far the two objects are from each other. Once it does that the sensor knows exactly which direction to focus in and therefore is comparatively faster than the contrast-detect auto focus.

The phase detect is undoubtedly faster but the Contrast-detect although slower can be far more accurate. The auto-focus used to be the biggest difference between the micro-four thirds and DSLR’s but that is definitely improving and has changed quite a lot. Cameras like Fuji XE-2, Olympus OM-D EM-1 and Panasonic GX7 now have a combination of both the sensors.

This does mean that now they are capable of capturing action sequences but for a professional sports photographer, DSLR’s undoubtedly is still the best option.

With the Micro 4/3rd’s, things like face detect auto focus and live view are more efficient but, in cameras like the Canon 70D DSLR, even this has been sorted out.

Lenses

micro four thirds
Through the Looking Glass

The selection of lenses available for the micro 4/3rd’s might be a bit less but the ones that are available are perhaps some of the finest. Right from the manual prime lenses to the zoom lenses and everything in between, you can find a lot. The cost is far lesser when compared with the cost of DSLR lenses. Add to that, the micro 4/3 lenses are lightweight and rather small.

The prime lenses for the DSLR of similar quality are quite bulky and can be rather expensive. However, in the hands of a skilled photographer, both of them can perform brilliantly and give fantastic results.

Viewfinders

Most professionals like to use the optical viewfinder. These are the ones that are generally found in DSLR’s like the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D. Some people, on the other hand, like the electronic viewfinder for the instant feedback. However, just like the optical viewfinders, not all EVF’s are built equally. But the viewfinders found these days in cameras like Olympus OM-D EM-1 and Sony A99 are amazing and has actually made a people convert from optical to electronic.

The EVF’s are so popular because it helps you see what the naked eyes can’t. With it, you can make several adjustments to the settings of your camera, look clearly in the dark or even see it in real time through the viewfinder. It performs really well on a rainy day. Also, if you are someone who prefers manual focusing, EVF is what you should opt for. This is because it gives you the chance to magnify and clearly see what you are focusing on.

Optical viewfinder might be great but with the introduction of EVF’s things have certainly changed.

Size and Weight

Being able to carry your kit easily is something that most professionals want. Also, if your camera is lightweight and small, it would make you happy which in turn means that you would be able to click better pictures. The camera body of Micro 4/3rd’s is notably smaller than the DSLR’s. For instance, the 600mm telephoto lens used for the DSLR’s is rather huge and carrying it around is a huge task. You also need to carry a tripod for it.

However, Panasonic and Olympus have a 300mm zoom lens which can produce a similar field of view as a 600mm lens on a full frame DSLR and can literally fit into a small box. Of course, to use it effectively, you need to learn the proper technique, but you do get to carry it everywhere easily. Hence, it is the Micro 4/3 that wins here.

Cost

If you have read each and everything above till now, you would by now be well aware of the fact that even the best micro 4/3 camera cost way lesser than the DSLR’s. There is quite a considerable difference in the cost of both the systems. You might use a professional DSLR if you are shooting for commercial clients and need to take out prints in large formats.

However, if you do not plan on using it for professional purposes, a micro 4/3 kit would work just fine for you. It makes much more sense to not to spend more and still get similar quality results. You can click a picture and for post processing use Lightroom. The results would pretty much be similar. You wouldn’t need to thousands of bucks to achieve the results that you want. Just learn the basics of editing and you would be good with a micro 4/3 camera.

Image Quality

micro four thirds
Quality Matters (Source)

The micro four thirds might seem small but they have the capability to take some stunning pictures. With correct lenses, you can produce similar results as that of a DSLR. Although the micro 4/3 camera does not perform well in low light conditions, they are absolutely lightweight and won’t even feel like you are holding a camera but can produce results that you usually get with a DSLR. DSLR's can serve you better with higher ISO. But, if you know how to play with light, you can easily take brilliant pictures. Light is especially important in photography and if you know how it works, you would easily be able to work with the micro 4/3 camera.

The Micro Four Thirds Cameras: The Benefits

The Micro 4/3 Cameras have loads of benefits. Let’s look at a few.

  • Cutting Edge Technology

The Micro Four Thirds Camera usually has a cutting edge technology which helps in taking better and improved pictures. The Olympus OMD, for instance, has an amazing feature that gives you the opportunity to constantly view a picture that seems to be brighter if the exposure is left open during the night time. When you feel the preview appears to be perfect, you can stop the exposure.

  • Lighter and Smaller Camera Body and Lenses

micro four thrids camera lighter
Compact and Effective

These types of cameras usually have a smaller body. This is possible because there has been no usage of the mirror in the body. It is the mirror usually that adds a significant amount of weight to the camera's body. Also, the lenses of such cameras are smaller and lighter as they do not require reproducing as big of an image onto the camera’s sensor. Being such lightweight, they can easily be carried everywhere. Extreme portability is also one of the reasons that people like these cameras so much.

  • Affordable Prices

The prices are kind of affordable. The prices of the Micro 4/3 cameras aren’t basically fixed. For instance, Olympus sells its Micro 4/3 cameras for a price that is quite similar to the mid-range DSLR. However, Panasonic sells at an even lower price. So, considering these prices, it can be said that these cameras are affordable.

  • Notably Longer Focal Length

The micro 4/3 camera, with a 100mm lens on it, can give similar (or, better) performance and results as that of a full-frame DSLR with a 200mm lens on it. This feature can turn out to be rather beneficial for the sports and wildlife photographers.

Other than all of the above, the micro 4/3 camera also has several features which are quite similar to that of a DSLR like a hot shoe, manual settings and much more.

Details to Know Before You Make the Swap

As can be seen, the micro 4/3 camera is definitely better than a DSLR camera but there are a few things that you must know before you get a Micro Four Thirds Camera. Listed below are a few of them.

1. A Slower Auto-focus

Slower auto-focus can be a huge disappointment, especially if you are shooting any kind of action with micro 4/3. Of course, these cameras are continually evolving but it still hasn’t been able to match DSLR’s auto-focus capability.

2. No Optical Viewfinder

The micro 4/3 cameras do not usually have an optical viewfinder which can bother a few people. They instead have electronic viewfinders. They aren’t as good as the optical ones but they are continuously being developed and are henceforth getting better.

3. Poor Low-light Performance

micro four thrids camera low light
Not as Impressive (Source)

The micro 4/3 cameras have rather a small sensor size and these do not cope well with low-light situations. If you are someone who is interested in outdoor night photography, these cameras would be the suitable choice for that. But, if you shoot indoors in low-light situations, they would work fine. Nothing impressive but, fine.

4. Fewer Selections of Lenses Available

Of course, the selection of lenses available for the micro 4/3 cameras is improving continually but when compared to the DSLR lenses, it is nowhere close.

Summing Up

To be honest, as long as you are good with your photography skills, nothing can go wrong with either of the cameras. Both of them have them have the capability to produce outstanding results. Some people prefer DSLR’s while some other prefer the micro four thirds. It comes down to the personal preference and what you are going to be using the camera for.

micro four thirds camera conclusion
Bigger and Better or Small and Sweet (Source)

So what camera did you choose? If you’ve used both, how was your experience with them? Which did you find better? Do share your thoughts in the comments.

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