The battle is over, and full frame cameras have lost the race. Here’s why:
I’ve been selling photos through a high end stock agency for the last two years. In my collection are images from a full frame DSLR, an APS-C DSLR, and several Micro 4/3rds cameras. After tallying my sales for an entire year, my highest selling image was taken with the Olympus OM-D EM10. That’s right, the entry level OM-D model. What’s more significant is that I would not have even been able to create the photo with a DSLR. To capture the traffic on the Vegas strip I used the Live Composite mode which is unique to Olympus.
Now you may think that this is an anomaly, but guess what…my second most sold image was taken with the same micro 4/3rds camera. Put simply, a 16 megapixel micro 4/3rds sensor outsold a full frame sensor many times over. The funny thing is, it cost me far less to purchase, and was easier to carry along. Was there enough resolution to go around? Absolutely! The agency I work with asks for 50MB Tiffs and I was able to hit this mark easily by shooting in RAW and processing through Alien Skin’s Blowup software.
In addition to shooting travel work, I’m a photography teacher. People ask me what camera to buy all of the time. I can’t think of a reason why I would recommend a DSLR anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I was a loyal Canon shooter for years, but they totally missed the mirrorless boat. Nikon is way behind the ball as well and their slumping sales numbers prove it. While Sony got into the mirrorless game, they got all caught up in the full frame hype. As a result, the lenses are huge which totally defeats the purpose of a smaller camera. Dare I also say, their selection of zoom lenses is rather disappointing. Meanwhile micro 4/3rd users enjoy seemingly endless options from Olympus, Panasonic, Voigtlander and more.
Why do I feel the need to write this piece? It’s to counter the marketing machines which have done a great job convincing people that they need a full frame sensor. They are preying on unknowing customers and it is wrong. Try it yourself. Walk into a camera store and tell them you are looking for a pro quality camera. Do they pull the micro 4/3rds body from the case or the more expensive full frame DSLR? I think you already know the answer. These camera salespeople need to be educated as well. Then again, if they work on commission it’s their job to mislead you. This is why I am voicing the benefits of micro 4/3rds systems.
My cameras have five stops of image stabilization built into them. This means I can hand hold at much slower shutter speeds than a DSLR. This alone negates any ISO advantages the full frame sensor had. Then, there’s the depth of field benefits of micro 4/3rds. At f4 I am gathering a ton of light but getting the equivalent to f8 depth of field. This means there’s no diffraction to worry about as I am using the lens in it’s sweet spot. When I want shallow depth of field I use one of the many amazing f1.8 lenses. For a trip to Iceland I even rented a Panasonic f1.2 lens. Let me tell you, the bokeh was beautiful. So tell me where I’ve gone wrong here? I’m inviting the trolls to chime in. I’m shooting more, selling more, and enjoying my photography more. How can you still justify the extra cost and size of a full frame system?
With just two lenses (12-40mm f2.8 and 40-150mm 2.8) I have the full frame equivalent to 24-300mm at a constant aperture of 2.8. These lenses combined weigh less than three pounds and totaled $2500. Alternatively, a Canon 300mm f2.8 runs over $6000 and weighs in just over five pounds. In addition to this monster, you’d still have to buy other lenses to cover the entire focal range at f2.8. This means more cash and weight. The idea that bigger is better has come and gone. Your new photography philosophy should be “less is more”.
I’ve sold all of my Canon gear, every last bit of it. I would recommend you do the same. Use eBay to get the best return. DSLRs are a dying breed, and full frame sensors are a sales gimmick for an industry with a shrinking bottom line. Don’t feed into the machine. I just saved you thousands of dollars and a sore back. Use the savings to take a trip to Iceland or Rome, or New York. Along your travels you will run into haters who are still clinging to their old ways. The same was also true of film, but look how that ended.
If I sound upset, it’s because I am. It’s simply not right for camera manufacturers to take advantage of people. A camera is only as good as the person using it. Give a veteran National Geographic photographer like Jim Brandenburg a basic point and shoot camera, and he will create spectacular art. You can do the same if you get out of the rat race and shift your focus. The camera that you are going to bring with you all the time is the one you should own. Are you really hiking up that mountain with a six thousand dollar 300mm f2.8?
For those of you who dream of becoming a professional photographer, now is the perfect time. You can get into the game at a fraction of the price it used to cost. You have to be super careful of who you listen to regarding your gear recommendations. In fact, you’re going to have to go against popular opinion. This is not easy when you’re just starting out, but remember how this article started. I made more sales with my micro 4/3rds camera than my full frame.
About the Author
Chris Corradino is the CEO and Head Instructor at Photo Mentor NYC, a personal mentoring service for photographers of all skill levels. You can find out more about Chris and the mentoring service on his website, follow his work on Instagram, or reach out to him through Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission.