Sony’s Full-Frame Breakthrough — What Micro Four Thirds Size and Weight Advantage?

Size and weight are the big selling points of Micro Four Thirds. But with the full-frame mirrorless Sony A7/A7R system cameras becoming reality, will there anyone still seriously insist that Micro Four Thirds is compelling on a size/weight basis?

About same weight, same size, different sensors. What Micro Four Thirds advantage?
About same weight, same size, different sensors. What Micro Four Thirds advantage?
No denying: the larger the sensor = the better the pixel quality. Period. And today, with a wide range of APS-C offerings and the compact full-frame system cameras coming, photographers can get a vastly larger sensor at similar or lower weight.


There are different cases to strengthen and weaken this argument. But let’s look at one real-world case, and small differences in size and weight are just not relevant to the core idea which is that the weight difference is more modest than one might think.

Compare the size and weight:

  • Sony A7R: 465g with battery and card + 120g for the Zeiss 35mm F2.8 lens.
  • Olympus E-M1: 497g with battery and card + 120g for the Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a very soft spot for Olympus. Let’s just look at the facts. And I’m quoting Lloyd Chambers:

Wow. The Sony A7R full-frame camera with equivalent lens is lighter than the equivalent Olympus E-M1 Micro Four Thirds setup.

Actually, the F2.8 lens on full-frame would have to be F1.0 (!) on Micro Four Thirds to be equivalent in depth of field and blur potential. So the Sony wins there also.

Oh, and the Sony A7R has 36MP in which each of those pixels is larger in area than the 16MP of the E-M1. 2.25x the pixels in 3.8 times the area = more and larger and higher quality pixels.

Case closed for anyone looking for image quality at similar size/weight equivalence, at least for the ~35mm focal length.

Well? Right, the lenses are Micro Four Thirds’ big plus. So drop those awkward zooms and go prime.

(via Lloyd Chambers)

  • Garrett Bernstein

    Shouldn’t you have started with the NEX line first? Then move onto M43. And Friday’s article can compare FF to the Nikon 1 – damn I can’t wait!

  • Robert Mark

    Can’t wait to see how the A7 tests out.

  • amalric

    These were your words just one year ago:

    “Today a Micro Four Thirds camera can indeed compete with a full-frame camera. Differences boil down to minor details that the human eye can hardly detect. Still, a full-frame digital SLR — or HD SLR as they’re called nowadays — is an amazing tool. But it’s just that, a tool with certain advantages and disadvantages, such as that larger sensors make your lenses wider and smaller sensors make them longer.”

    Let’s see if you have changed your mind and will spend 10,000 on the Sony mount and its zeisses – “Minor details” LOL.

    Read more:

  • Being quoted is always an honor!

    Nothing wrong with my earlier assessment, amalric.

    Albeit slightly apologetic, the equivalence article is referring to physical parameters. What this article didn’t go into is the non-measurable fullness and the sense of three-dimensionality a larger sensor paired with quality glass might give, besides other advantages and also disadvantages.

    That was a year ago. Only a few were seriously dreaming of a full-frame MILC. When given the choice between similarly sized and priced gear — with a huge difference in sensor and pixel size –, well that would be like going for a car’s basic model instead of the prime edition with turbo engine.

    The new Sonys solve an old paradox: if smaller, bigger might indeed be better.

    I’d be totally happy with an E-M1 or GX7 (which I actually slightly prefer over the Olympus). But given the choice, and all I need is at best two lenses, well, I’m certainly gonna have a very close look at how new and legacy glass performs on these Sonys. Frankly, Sony knows what they’re doing. They got a killer breakthrough product that puts pressure an all other formats. But not because other formats don’t deliver. Because since October 16, 2013, digital photography knows a new standard format.

  • amalric

    Then why spring only for two lenses? ;)

    Why don’t you buy the whole lineup?

    As for the ‘new standard format’, Leica and al. have been there for almost a century, and didn’t feel any worse :)

  • Two is all I ever need. One wider, ideally ~28mm, one longer, 50mm.

  • Bengt Nyman

    There is no mystery how FF, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds will stack up in the future.

    Body sizes will differ some, but not much. FF bodies will still be the largest because of the need to grip and handle the cameras with bigger and heavier lenses.

    There will always be a noticeable difference in image quality, especially in low light and high ISO.

    The biggest difference will be in price, because of the cost of the sensor and the glass. And because everybody wants it that way, the manufacturer as well as the proud owner, professional or not.