Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thoughts about Full Frame and Micro Four Thirds/Cropped Sensor Cameras

When I published my post regarding my full frame, Sony A7 camera versus the Olympus OMD E-M1 (a cropped sensor, m43 camera), I knew it would gain some traction, but I didn't realize how much of a response it would elicit. Many have been asking me follow up questions like what I prefer and if I could only buy one which one would I get. While the quick answer is the Olympus OMD E-M1, I believe this requires a qualified response since I have been gearing my business towards more studio and portrait work with off camera lighting. 

A studio headshot taken with the OMD E-M1 - Oly 75mm @ f/5.6
Let's get the technical stuff out of the way first. The Olympus OMD and other micro four thirds cameras have a crop factor of 2. Let's assume I am using a Canon 5D Mark II (a full frame camera I had used this past weekend) with a 50mm prime lens. If I decide to mount a Canon lens on my OMD, the field of view will change to  ~100mm. The crop factor also applies to the depth of field (not light gathering potential). While you will hear a lot of people saying that the strength of full frame cameras is being able to capture an image with a shallow depth of field, I say the strength of m43 cameras is the fact that it has such a great depth of field. Imagine shooting at f/2 on a m43, that's equal to a depth of field similar to f/4 on a full frame camera. 

When shooting groups this extra depth of field truly comes in handy. Not only will I be able to shoot at a lower aperture and still ensure that all people are sharp and in focus, I can as a result bump down my ISO for a cleaner image and/or raise the shutter speed to prevent shutter shock/motion blur. This becomes especially helpful in low light conditions like events and or weddings.

While not really a group shot, the extra depth of field I got when shooting at f/1.4 with the Panasonic 25mm and OMD really helped bring context to this image. 
This is another shot taken from the Rise of the Jack O Lanterns at the Descanso Gardens. Both shots were taken at ISO 800 below 1/30th of a second (hand held).

Whenever I do studio headshots,  I prefer to use an f-stop that allows for both eyes being completely tack sharp. On a full frame camera, I find that I need to use a minimum of f/8, but tend use f/10 or f/11 for safety. On my OMD, all I would need to use is f/4 or f/5.6 to achieve the aforementioned requirements. Since aperture exposes for flash, what this essentially means is that I would need less power from my lights to properly expose my subject using a m43 camera than I would with a full frame camera (the higher the f-stop/aperture, the more power I would need). 

This photo was taken with Godox lights. Because of the recycle time, I was able to capture this candid moment when my friend, Ben, was interacting with his wife. This is possibly my favorite shot of the day simply for the expression alone. 
If you've been following my blog for a while, you will know that I am a fan of the Godox speedlights. Unfortunately, the Godox V850s just won't cut it with my A7 (let alone full frame cameras for a similar shot shown above) when consistently firing at high power. While I don't machine gun the shutter, I still consistently hit the overheating zone where the lights just stop firing to prevent permanent damage. I undoubtedly resort to monolights, which are bulkier and require an outlet to power. Like Doug Story, I prefer to be a more nimble photographer. However, if I have to use monolights with m43 gear, I at least don't have to wait as long for the lights to recycle between shots. This helps incredibly when you want to capture those candid laughter shots or those key poses 

Full frame goodness with the Sony A7 and FE 55mm f1.8 - There's something truly amazing about this lens 
While you might think I'm hating on all full frame cameras and my new Sony A7, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Full frame cameras have their place in my gear bag especially for on-location portrait work or engagement photography. This is why I wanted to qualify my response, but the truth is I reach for my E-M1 9 times out of 10 whenever I do work in the studio. 

Recently taken with my new Zeiss 55mm lens - this glass is truly wonderful. 
So say we all,

PS: I had mentioned earlier that I was using a Canon 5D Mark II. In a previous post I did a review comparing it with the Olympus OMD E-M1(See review HERE). While I love the fact that it easily tethers to the Lightroom, which all of my mirrorless gear cannot easily do, my opinion about that camera still has not changed.  In fact, my hand started to really cramp up after 3 hours handling it while working a photo booth. I also couldn't help but notice how dark the view finder was with the Canon 24-105 f/4 L Lens. According to the owner, it is a problem that only occurs when using that particular lens. At the end of the day, I couldn't help but miss an Electronic View Finder and the weight of my Sony A7/E-M1.

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