So I took the jump! I got rid of my Nikon Z5 and lenses, and have invested in the Micro Four Thirds system. Now my gear consists of two cameras, a Panasonic G9 and an Olympus OMD EM5 III. I also got a few lenses, a 12-45mm f4 (24-90mm), a 40-150mm f2.8 (80-300mm), and a couple of primes. This will help me turn into a hybrid shooter, doing both photos and video. But, some might ask, couldn’t I have done that with the Nikon Z cameras? Sure, and with great results (as far as I can produce them) as well. However, there are some reasons why I “downgraded” from full frame to MFT. Here are three of them:

First, the size. While it’s true – as many probably will be quick to point out – that full frame cameras have gotten smaller and now match micro four thirds and APS-C cameras in size, this is a truth with moderations. Yes, the smallest full frame cameras are either the same size, or even a little smaller, than the largest micro four thirds cameras. For example, Sony’s a7C with its 124 mm width and 71.1 mm height, is clearly smaller than Panasonic’s Lumix G9 with its 136.9 mm width and 97.3 mm height. It is also lighter, weighing only 509 grams vs Panasonic G9’s 658 grams.

However, these two cameras are outliers. The one being among the smallest (if not the smallest) standard full frame camera, and the other being among the largest micro four thirds cameras. But if we take a look at other micro four thirds cameras, such as the popular Panasonic Gx9 or my own Olympus EM5 III, then the story is different. The Gx9 is the same size as the Sony a7C, whereas the EM5 is only a bit larger. If you compare them to the Sony a7 III, probably the most popular mirrorless Sony camera, then we see a larger full frame camera. And the a7 III is among the smaller full frame cameras. Both Canon and Nikon, and even Panasonic, offer full frame cameras of much larger sizes. 

The size of the Nikon Z5 with a 24-70mm f4 lens compared to the Olympus O-MD E-M5 mIII with a 12-45mm f4 lens.
The size of the Nikon Z5 with a 24-70mm f4 lens compared to the Olympus O-MD E-M5 mIII with a 12-45mm f4 lens.

When it comes to weight the two smaller micro four thirds cameras I’ve mentioned are both lighter than the Sony a7C, so even though they might not be smaller than the smallest full frame Sony camera, they are still lighter. And that can make a difference, when walking around with a camera all day.

And this is the cameras, where the differences have become smaller. When it comes to lenses the differences are much bigger. Yes, it is possible to find small and very compact full frame camera lenses, but this is mainly only possible for prime lenses within a certain range of focal lengths. And they will typically not have as wide apertures, as is the case for their larger lenses.* Take for example Olympus 12-45mm f4 Pro (24-90mm) compared to Nikon’s 24-70mm f4 S lens. Not only does the Olympus lens have 20mm more in the long end, it is also much smaller and lighter than the Nikon lens, being 70mm long, when not zoomed out, weighing only 254 grams. Compare this to 88.5 mm (when retracted, that is, not even being opened to 24mm) of the Nikon lens, which weighs 500 grams. The Olympus EM5 III with the 12-45mm f4 lens weighs only 668 grams compared to Nikon Z5 with the 24-70mm f4, which weighs 1175 grams. That’s a big difference. And the more telephoto or wide aperture lenses we compare, the larger the difference. 

For me, being in situations where I need to bring more gear, for example one, maybe two cameras, two to three zoom lenses and a prime lens, a drone, a steadicam, and a tripod, the compactness and weight of the camera system plays a big role.

Then there’s the price. If you buy into a system like Sony’s full frame system, then you can indeed find cheap and affordable lenses. But they are built and perform accordingly. And the cameras are still expensive. Here, where I live (Israel), camera gear in general has gotten really expensive. But when it comes to the differences between micro four thirds and full frame gear (and even APS-C, when it comes to Fujifilm), it is clear that a lot of money is to be saved by choosing micro four thirds over full frame. For example, the relatively cheap Nikon Z5 – which is a great and amazing camera – costs more than a new Panasonic G9, and almost as much as a Gh5. And if one wants to do both photography and videography, then the Z5 is not the better choice. The same is the case for lenses, where the top of the line Olympus and Panasonic G lenses cost at least half of what their equivalent full frame lenses cost. 

Add to that the features you get in the micro four thirds cameras, such as HighRes mode, allowing you to take 80MP images, or LiveView, allowing you to see the image as it unfolds, just to mention a few, and you have some pretty capable cameras for less money than what you would have to pay for the full frame cameras.

This leads me to the third point, what the micro four thirds cameras offer. I’ve already touched on the features, but there’s more to it than that. The In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) of the micro four thirds cameras is so much better than what the full frame cameras can offer, particularly when the camera is matched with a suitable lens. The fact that these cameras have such good IBIS, allows me to leave the tripod at home, where I would need to bring it with me with the Nikon Z5 I shot with until now. Don’t get me wrong, IBIS in full frame cameras has certainly improved and is great, but in order to get a really good IBIS with full frame, you also have to pay that much more. 

Finally there’s the video. Sure, the NIkon Z5 can shoot in 4K, but only in 4K 30fps and then with a huge crop. And only in 8-bit. This compared to the Panasonic G9, which can shoot in 40K 60fps 10-bit without a crop. Okay, this might not make sense, technical details and all, but let’s just say that the 2017 Panasonic G9, which is cheaper than the Nikon Z5, can produce much better video, if one wants to do so, without the disabilities that otherwise comes with shooting video with the Z5. 

Sure, I could get a Nikon Z6, but even then I wouldn’t get the same options, and as mentioned, it would be much more expensive.

So to sum up. What I’m giving up on is image quality, but the difference between the results I get from the micro four thirds cameras and full frame cameras is negligible for what I’m doing, and if it matters I can easily correct for this in post-editing. Even more, the MFT cameras offer HighRes options, allowing me to shoot large photos, and since I mainly shoot static subjects this works perfect for me. Instead of image quality I get a more compact system which also is cheaper, and it offers me much more features and photo options, than what I would get if I stayed with Nikon or any other full frame system. So in short, I get so much more out of the MFT system than what I would with the full frame system. The question I want to ask you, would micro four thirds be a better option for you?

*I know, this opens the discussion for comparable apertures between MFT and full frame, but I will touch on this later.