Full Frame vs. Micro Four Thirds: Do You Really Need the Extra Megapixels?

In the endless search for perfect image quality, many of us feel it's a given that we need more megapixels from our camera sensors. So when you make large printouts from a full-frame camera and a Micro Four Thirds camera, do the results tell the same story?

In this comparison video from Marc Newton, he walks around Southend-on-Sea in England and takes some documentary images to be used in an exhibition. First he takes some shots with a full-frame Canon 5D Mark IV, and then he takes some shots with a Micro Four Thirds Olympus OMD EM-1. If you're not sure what a Micro Four Thirds camera is, it's a smaller, mirrorless camera that first came about in 2008 and has a crop factor of 2x in relation to full-frame sensors (APS-C format cameras generally have a crop-factor of 1.5x).

He takes the shots he likes to his regular printer and gets two printouts from the full-frame Canon and two printouts from the Micro Four Thirds Olympus, each at 100 centimeters on its longest edge. Both Newton and the printer then survey the prints and try to establish if there's a difference in quality across the four prints.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Firstly, do extra megapixels in a sensor really matter that much in terms of image quality? And secondly, if the Micro Four Thirds Olympus can produce large prints equal to that of a full-frame sensor at half the price, is there really any need to spend more than $2,000 on a body?

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I didn’t watch the video. Just read the blurb here. Pixel count by itself is the last reason to go FF. You go for FF when you want lower noise levels, wider dynamic range, and different color tonality response. Pixel count is good when you are printing posters or need cropping power.

Iain Stanley's picture

You make a good point, as the shots taken in this comparison test were during the day with good light. Perhaps a similar test done in fading light or with less natural light may have produced different results. However, that being said, both the photographer and the printer here couldn’t tell the difference in colours and DR in the printed shots.....

I'm with Boris on this one. Most ppl have just one system for all opportunities. Most ppl shoot a lil bit of everything. Try the same trick with a landscape and the test result will be much different - from colors, thru DR, ending with the amount of visible details, especially on big prints. Not to mention incorrectly exposed pictures and pulling in PP.

Many images don’t require as much DR as one thinks. Moreover, the best43 cameras today rival APS-C and many FF
sensors. I have used even 1inch sensors at low ISOs that have noise levels at the same level as comparable FFsensors.
I use a FF and it does a great job but I have shot even architectural images along side and have made clients happy.
The sneering comes from inexperience and the worship of specs. With a little experience you learn that specs won’t get the shot or tell the truth.

user-156929's picture

Architectural, huh? How's that PC lens working for you? Just kidding! ;-)

µ43 and APS-C do not have TS lenses that are practical. OTOH one can get a lot of the work done with UWA and transform.

user-156929's picture

Agreed. Can we just agree they're both great for most things and have advantages over each other for certain applications? This is getting tiring. :-)

Finally. I've always wanted someone to talk about this.

user-156929's picture

Let me guess...you shoot with MFT! ;-)

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

what ? no EYE AF ? all that hardware is rubbish. Period.

End of poor joke.

Iain Stanley's picture

My daughter just turned 2 a couple weeks back. She’s like a mosquito at an outside BBQ on a hot summer’s night. My God she never stops moving. Like, ever! Oh how I would love fast Eye AF haha!!!

user-156929's picture

"...like a mosquito at an outside BBQ on a hot summer’s night" I'm going to shamelessly steal that line! :-)

Iain Stanley's picture

Haha have at it. As long as you correctly cite it using the incomparable APA system of referencing

OMG! Not this again. I have shot with MFT, APS-C and FF. There are much more important differences than pixel count. I mean there are point and shoot camera with a higher pixel count than my Canon 6D. Will you make a video about it?

Do "Pros" really need a lecture on megapixel count? You want to make a VS video? Fine, let's talk about High ISO noise, autofocus speed and accuracy, talk about crop factor even.

Last time I checked the EM1 M2 (which is my exclusive camera) was priced at $2000...
Still I wouldn't part with it as it is the right tool for the jobs for which I use it.
P.S. I haven't printed since going digital, Gawd I hate printers.

Iain Stanley's picture

You haven’t printed since going digital? What do you do with all your shots?

Teofil Rewers's picture

Do you really need the details above 800 ISO? ;) Do you really need all day battery?

Rarely above 800 ISO but yes, sometimes. An all day battery? Yes that would help frequently. Any time you're changing a battery is a time you aren't able to use the camera. Any time you are changing a battery outdoors is a time you are exposing your battery and inside of your camera to the elements.

Jeff McCollough's picture

My 6D battery lasts all day.

JetCity Ninja's picture

never shoot without dual battery slots. only a plebeian would buy a camera with a single battery slot. </sarcasm>

Size, this is the magic of m4/3 system. You can't beat it for bang for size metric :-).

Nicholas Monteleone's picture

Why are people talking about sensor sizes as if they dictate pixel count? The A7S is a 12.2 MP FF camera, while the A6300 is a 24MP APS-C. Twice the pixel count, smaller sensor. Why make it sound like one has anything to do with the other?

The 4:3 aspect ratio of the sensor is enough by itself for me to never even consider MFT

Joshua Boldt's picture

Yes, there is something I don't like about 4:3 for some reason, even thought I could just purposely shoot a little wider and crop it to a size/shape I like better.

For people shots I love the aspect ratio. I usually crop portraits to 4:5 or 1:1 anyway. Same for vertical landscapes. For horizontal landscapes I prefer a wider aspect ratio.

Korey Napier's picture

That's what I've always thought. Does anyone like watching T.V. in a 4:3 format anymore? It's the same for me when it comes to my photography. I would feel like I'm looking at a picture that was made for a 1992 RCA television. There's something about a more extreme rectangle that appeals to me.

JetCity Ninja's picture

that's why i crop all of my photos to a 21:9 ratio. ultra-wide aspect ratio is where it's at.

Max Holtzhouser's picture

I mean, some people HAVE to have leather seats in their car because they are better. Other people have cloth because they don't believe leather is better.

Technically speaking, just give me the biggest sensor I can get for my budget.

Iain Stanley's picture

Agree completely. I would slightly amend that and say just give me the best camera I can get for my particular needs. If you’re just going to throw your pics up on social media and 500px etc, I really don’t think a 40mp sensor is quite necessary......

JetCity Ninja's picture

funny bit of trivia: back when cars were designed to be driven in and not necessarily driven by the owners, the driver's seat was upholstered in "hard wearing leather" while the passengers were treated to velour or other soft, supple upholstery.

IMO, i find nothing luxurious about leather upholstery. for items designed to be hard wearing, like watch bands, gloves, and motorcycle racing suits, i get the best quality leather i can reasonably afford. for things designed to cradle and soothe my flat, asian butt, i prefer a liquid and stain-resistant cloth that's soft to the touch. there are few things as irritating as leather upholstery sticking to my skin in the summer heat, making either that peeling or graunching noise as i or others shift around on it. even worse: leather automobile seats that have been preheated in the summer sun.

completely off topic.

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