Reader Question: Switching to Micro Four Thirds

Photographers of all backgrounds and experiences have some form of interest in Micro Four Thirds. Some use them as backup cameras, some have completely switched over, etc. A reader from Cuba has a question on the benefits of Micro Four Thirds that can not only be answered by myself, but the entire community. Here it is:

Hello Chris.
I’m very excited writing this humble reader question from me, a young Cuban amateur photographer, to you, an all grown up professional photographer. I will be very happy if you get to read this email. So if you answer my question or make some comments about it I will be four times that happy.

This is my concern:

There are photographers that feel comfortable with the size and bulkiness of a DSLR. They also think that the need for lenses beyond the ones their camera brand supports is not too high. So, for this group of photographers (maybe a not too small group), what would be, if any, the advantages of switching from a DSLR camera to a Micro Four Thirds camera that have similar price tags?

Thanks a lot for your time.

Dayron Armas

Thanks for your question Dayron. It’s quite an interesting one. For starters, one of the writers over at Serious Compacts has completely switched over the Micro Four Thirds and Pentax, therefore totally ditching his Nikon equipment. In fact, the photographer (Bj√∂rn Utpott) notes that when he bought a Panasonic G1 his LX3 and Nikon D300 saw almost no use. He argues that when he needs an actual DSLR, he just goes to his Pentax K-7.

Based on what Utpott says, one of the reasons and benefits one can get from Micro Four Thirds is a lighter, compact and more discrete camera that takes excellent photos.

However, let’s also keep in mind that since Utpott uses a Pentax, that he can mount all of his lenses onto his GH1 if needed. Therefore the two systems compliment each other. This works fine as I stated when I wrote my lens picks article for Micro Four Thirds. Native lenses are still few and underdeveloped.

Most photographers prefer the look of a CMOS sensor over a CCD. The sensor in a GH1 and other Four Thirds cameras is a LiveMOS sensor. Essentially this a CCD that uses less energy from the battery. That being said, if you like a CCD (Leicas use this too, it’s a more film-like look) vs a CMOS then Micro Four Thirds will do you just fine.

Add onto these facts that you can use a wider variety of lenses and you will surely be happy. Although most manufacturers make lenses to compete with other companies. For example, everyone has their own take on 50mm lenses to suit their system correctly. Another example is using the 24-70mm F2.8L on my Canon system vs the 14-35mm F2.0 that I could have used when I still shot with Olympus.

Those lenses can be used well when shooting video. With the exception of Canon, Panasonic is highly praised for their video quality in their interchangeable lenses cameras. Panasonic lenses are optimized for shooting video because of the quiet autofocus, overall sharpness, etc. So this ultimately allows you for more flexibility. Many commercials have been shot with the Panasonic GH1. However, the Canon 7D and 5D Mk II are on the set of SNL, Iron Man 2, the new Harry Potter movie, etc.

Many photographers may not go to Micro Four Thirds for the reason that they prefer an optical viewfinder. To me, both have their advantages. This choice is critical when you’re a visually impaired photographer like myself (I’m part of Blind Photographers.) I can’t shoot without my glasses if I use an optical viewfinder. Therefore, I’ve had to develop my techniques of manually focusing and shooting blind. With an EVF like on the GH1, I can shoot perfectly fine without my glasses. If you don’t mind an EVF, then you’ll be fine.

What other advantages are there? Has anyone else completely switched over?



  1. Wally Brooks says

    What I like about the Panasonic GH1 is that it reminds me of my old Nikkormat with a minimal number of controls allowing for you to concentrate on taking the image! Its small, low weight, easy to use, and easy to carry for long periods of time. I agree with criticism of DSLR’s having to many external controls. Personally I would not use the video capabilities. I am both a Nikon DSLR user and for outdoor and landscape shoot a 4×5 view camera and B&W film!