2018 will definitely go down as the year of the rise of the full-frame mirrorless camera. But even though I’ve drank the water and purchased the latest-greatest full-frame Sony A7iii, I also just purchased a Panasonic G85 with a Micro Four Thirds sensor that’s literally half the size. This article explains how Micro Four Thirds earned a spot in my video shooting kit.
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What Micro Four Thirds isn’t Good For
With a smaller footprint to soak up light, Micro Four Thirds sensors are not known to be great for shooting in low light. Even the venerable Panasonic GH5S can’t match the low light capabilities of the less expensive (but full-frame sensored) Sony A7iii.
Besides low light, another area where full-frame sensors have micro four thirds beat is when with shallow depth of field. It’s definitely a challenge to match the creamy bokeh and slivers of focus a great f1.4 lens gives on a full-frame camera. But as we’ll see below, there’s more to shooting video than staying at wide open apertures.
5 Reasons Micro Four Thirds is still relevant in 2018
Reason #1: Size & Weight
Both bodies and lenses are featherweight and tiny in comparison to their full frame brethren. This means less space to pack your camera kit, less load on your shoulder and back, and less wear and tear on your hands and body. As a working media professional who has traveled the world with a kit of multiple cameras, this is reason to celebrate.
Reason #2: Keep More In Focus (Depth of Field)
You don’t always need or even want to shoot with shallow depth of field. When shooting interviews, architecture and establishing shots, a wide angle point of view with lots of depth of field is a great option, and one that’s less fussy to focus and manage.
Micro four thirds cameras are perfectly matched for these scenarios since, as I wrote above, what would be a challenge for it to shoot with narrow depth of field, is a natural advantage when you want more of the frame to be in focus. Bonus: slower glass is typically less expensive, and the kit lens that came with my G85 works great as an all-round lens for scenarios like this.
Reason #3: No Overheating
The smaller sensor size generates less heat than its bigger sensored siblings. And heat is the enemy as anyone who has seen the dreaded thermometer and overheating warning pop up on the back of their camera can attest to.
I’ve heard reports that even the latest generation of Sony full-frame cameras can overheat when pushed for long recording sessions. Kind of scary to think about it if you use these for your profession and you’re worried about what to do when the overheat sensor turns on. Do I need multiple bodies? Is 2 enough?
Micro four thirds to the rescue! The smaller sensor is another win in generating less heat. You can sleep better at night knowing you have a camera in your kit that will work without overheating … and that leads to reason #4 …
Reason #4: No Record Time Limit!!
Don’t even think about recording more than 30 minutes with today’s full frame sensors. There are conspiracy theories as to why there are recording limits on cameras that are so beloved for their video capabilities, but I’m pretty sure heat is a big reason the engineers don’t mind slapping a time limit to video recording.
My little Panasonic G85 can record for over an hour straight.1 With a big SD card inserted and an AC power supply, I can record live events and long-format videos without worrying about gaps and having to restart the recording every 30 minutes.
Having one camera in your kit that is going to reliably record your entire session without babysitting is great insurance for the working pro.
Reason #5: Superior Stabilization
Not sure why, but Panasonic’s in-body and lens stabilization beats everything I’ve tried in full-framed cameras. For run-and-gun shooting that’s so popular these days, it’s no wonder Panasonic’s GH5 is still the best selling Micro Four Thirds video camera on the market. With their recent announcement of a full-frame system, I’m hoping they can continue their lead in stabilizing video footage.
BONUS Reason #6: Affordable Price
My camera with kit lens equivalent of 24-120 was less than $1000 CAD. That’s a fraction of my Sony camera and lens and an inSANE deal for quality of image and feature set you get out of the box. No: it’s not going to replace my full-frame Sony A7iii, but it’s a perfect sidekick to my full-frame video cameras.
NotSoAncient Rice Points for the win!!!
Sure Micro Four Thirds cameras can’t do it all. They’re no match for their full-frame sisters in low light, or when you want to shoot with shallow depth of field. But don’t write off Micro Four Thirds just because they’re not as sexy as the latest greatest full frame models. What are considered its disadvantages are also its strengths, and, with careful consideration, has earned a spot in my video gear bag.
I’ve noticed recording limits are region specific to brand and model. For example, the Panasonic G85 here in Canada has no record limit, but in other parts of the world the same model has a record limit. ↩︎