Why I’m Shooting Landscape Photography with Micro 4/3
Back in 2016, I was happily shooting my Landscape Photography with micro 4/3 cameras. To be more precise I was using two Olympus EM5 cameras; one converted to shoot infrared and the other a regular body. These cameras were easy to use and my results were good. Micro 4/3 wasn’t a passing fad or a compromise camera for me. But then something changed, and it wasn’t necessarily for the better.
My Micro 4/3 Camera History
I originally made the move to micro 4/3 photography in 2010, using these tiny cameras alongside my full-frame Canon 5D MkII. Initially, the quality didn’t compare favourably but as time went on, technology improved and I understood how to improve my results. Finally, I sold the full-frame camera and micro 4/3 became my camera of choice for landscape photography.
Then in 2016, after a few good years shooting with the Olympus EM5, I was considering an Olympus EM1. But something happened. I purchased a used Fuji XT1 and a couple of lenses. I can’t remember why I did it, but it led to my eventually switching to the Fuji system and away from micro 4/3. But I didn’t switch because I thought the Fuji was better and it’s certainly been a frustrating relationship.
Whilst I’ve been pleased with my results from the Fuji system, it has had its problems. Perhaps the most annoying of these is the “wiggly worm” effect you see when processing Fuji RAW files using Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW. Unfortunately, this is most noticeable when you are working with a landscape photo and a lot of good photographers have written about the worm effect. And while I know how to avoid and fix the problem, it takes additional effort and I never feel 100% happy with the results.
Then recently whilst doing some work (that I can’t yet share), I found myself processing some RAW files from a Panasonic G9. That’s when I realised the excellent quality that was possible when shooting landscape photography with micro 4/3 cameras. To cut a long story short, I’ve now purchased a Panasonic G9 to use alongside my Fuji system.
Benefits of Shooting Landscape Photography with Micro 4/3
Whilst I have yet to take the Panasonic G9 out for serious photography, I have used it and am extremely impressed by the results. Here’s an example of a woodland fern I shot recently with the G9. The colours and smoothness of the image is extremely impressive, and the colours rendering is very natural.
And here is another taken in duller conditions.
The results from the G9 when photographing landscapes compare extremely favourably with the Fuji XT3.
But I’m not looking to replace my Fuji system. I want to supplement it with the strengths of the micro 4/3 format. Sometimes the Fuji system is too heavy and bulky but micro 4/3 is perfect.
Size and Weight of Lenses
Whilst the G9 body isn’t much different to the Fuji XT3, and may even be slightly larger and heavier, they rest of the equipment isn’t. The lenses for a micro 4/3 system are small and light. They are tiny in comparison to most cameras and a fraction of the weight. I can carry a complete system in small shoulder bag which allows me to use a regular backpack for food and outdoor clothing.
When you are venturing out into the hills and mountains for the day this is important. Fatigue is the unseen enemy of the Landscape Photographer. When you’re tired your photography suffers and you’re more inclined to pack up and go home rather than wait for the best light.
Take this example landscape photo shot in 2016 using an Olympus EM5 micro 4/3 camera.
I shot this on my way to the summit of Black Combe in the Lake District. Not an especially high peak or even steep climb but using a micro 43 camera made it much more enjoyable.
I have also made more strenuous climbs in more extreme conditions where using a larger camera than micro 4/3 would have been silly.
I shot this from the summit of Mount Etna on the main crater rim. This isn’t the crater that the tourist busses visit but one that’s a further 500m ascent and you can only reach it with a qualified guide. It’s a hard climb with altitude and poisonous gasses to contend with. If you want to carry a full frame system up there be my guest.
Size and Weight of Accessories
But it isn’t just the size and weight of the camera and lenses that makes micro 4/3 a great choice for landscape photography. The accessories are also smaller and lighter. Take filters for example. I use Kase Filters which are fantastic quality but because they are 2mm thick glass, the weight adds up quickly. Compare this with the 75mm filters which you can use with a micro 4/3 camera and there is a significant reduction in weight. The filters are smaller (75mm rather than 100mm) and slimmer at only 1.1mm thick. The weight saving quickly adds up.
In addition to filters, you can use a lighter tripod if you even need one. Most of the time you can achieve full depth of field with a micro 4/3 camera using an aperture of between f/5.6 and f/7.1. This translates into faster shutter speeds which allows for more hand holding. Even in poor light.
Interestingly, many photographers new to micro 4/3 photography don’t realise you can capture a full depth of field with such wide apertures. Many continue to shoot as they would with a DSLR camera and consequently don’t achieve the great results that are possible with these cameras. If this could be you, read my tips on micro 4/3 landscape photography.
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Micro 4/3 Limitations
But using a micro 4/3 camera for landscape photography isn’t without limitations, but they may not be the ones most often sited. Many photographers who comment on micro 4/3 would try to convince you that the quality isn’t there. This is nonsense and a point often argued by those who haven’t tried micro 4/3 or who used the early cameras.
The micro 4/3 lenses are wonderful, providing edge to edge sharpness across the frame. Uncorrected, they may display greater distortion than a full frame camera, but software correction is everywhere today. No one displays uncorrected photos.
Similar misinformation also exists when it comes to noise. Yes, the micro 4/3 sensor has more noise when compared to a full frame camera and that noise comes in at a lower ISO. But is that how we shoot landscape photography? Most landscape photography uses a low ISO setting where micro 4/3 images are clean, even without noise reduction.
And when it comes to needing to make large prints, you can make excellent A3+ and A2 prints from micro 4/3 without any extra effort. But if you decide you want larger prints, using software like Topaz Gigapixel means 40” x 30” prints are easy to achieve.
The point of this article wasn’t to bore you with the benefits of micro 4/3 cameras. Instead, I wanted to share with you some of the reasons why I’m now shooting landscape photography with a micro 4/3 camera (again).
Micro 4/3 offers convenience and makes photography enjoyable.
But I also want to be clear that I’m not moving away from the Fuji system. I’ll be using the Panasonic G9 to supplement the Fuji system where its features make it more suitable and probably more enjoyable to use.
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