2019-09-13

Macro Photography with a Micro Four-Thirds System


Welcome back to Throwback Thursday where we take a closer look at some of the more interesting items in our ever-growing Park Cameras Used Department. This week, we’re taking a look at macro photography and what a micro four-thirds system offers for this specific genre of photography.


The Setup

As usual, I’ve raided our Used Department for some kit to test this out, this time I’ve gone for the Panasonic G80 with the Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8 lens. Since this is a micro four-thirds setup, this gives us a x2 crop giving us an effective focal length of 90mm, perfect for getting in nice and close for our macro photography.



I had two shoots with this setup. The first was a controlled, studio-style shoot where I was able to control the lighting, I had the camera on a tripod and had a stationary subject (strawberries). The second was out and about, using natural light and shooting handheld. This meant that I was able to really test out this setup for macro photography in very different situations.

Advantages of Micro Four Thirds

In the past, I’ve generally shot macro with either a full-frame DSLR or a full-frame mirrorless camera so I was interested to see how different a micro four-thirds system might be. I think it’s important to say up front that it’s entirely possible to get great macro shots with a variety of different sized format cameras from 1-inch sensors and compact cameras through to full-frame and medium format.



Micro Four-Thirds gives you the exposure control and ultimately, the resolving power that would get from a larger format camera such as full-frame but with the extended depth of field that you get from having a smaller sensor.

Focus and Depth of Field

Depth of field is one of the biggest hurdles with macro photography. Getting in so close to your subject means that often, you end up with an incredibly shallow depth of field. Sometimes, you might make the creative decision to have out of focus elements in your photo and certainly, this can make for a great looking final product.



What you don’t want, is for that creative decision to be taken out of your hands. You can of course use things like focus stacking to get a much deeper depth of field and there’s always the option to stop all the way down but that brings it’s own issues.

With Micro Four-Thirds, due to that smaller sensor, you can use an aperture of f/8 and have it give you the equivalent depth of field of f/16 on a full-frame camera. That’s a significant advantage in macro photography and means you have much better control over what’s in focus and what’s not.

Size, Weight and Portability

Another huge advantage of the micro four-thirds system is the size and weight. With a smaller sensor, the cameras tend to be significantly smaller and lighter than full-frame counterparts and even more so, the lenses.



The lens I was using, the Panasonic Leica 45mm, was incredibly small and light and made the whole system very easy to carry around. I barely felt the need for a camera bag and it certainly made the trip out to the woods very pleasant.

I imagine that I would be able to take three lenses with this system for the same weight as some of the bigger full-frame lenses.

Image Stabilisation

Now this is also a feature of a lot of full-frame mirrorless cameras as well but having it here in this camera meant that handheld macro shots were very achievable.



This is a big part of what made it possible to take the camera out with no tripod and take macro shots of various things. Having the I.S in camera just makes it a lot easier to use a smaller aperture to get that deeper depth of field but still be able to use a slower shutter speed to keep the ISO down.

Resolution

One of the downsides with the micro four-thirds system compared with full-frame is a drop in resolution. For the most part, you will have a lower megapixel count, for example, the Panasonic G80 I was using has a 16MP sensor.



The main issue that’s going to cause is how much room you have in post for cropping. With macro photography, I’ll sometimes end up cropping the image, either to re-compose or re-frame something in the picture or to just crop in a little more. With a lower resolution, you don’t have quite as much room for cropping in.

Ultimately though, that just forced me to take more time to compose my images and not rely on being able to fix it later. If you take the time to set up your photo then this is not really going to affect you.

Price

This is something that is important to mention and especially for anyone looking to get into macro photography, a micro four-thirds system is significantly cheaper than a full-frame system.



The system that I was using was the Panasonic G80 which from our used department was £379 and the Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro lens coming in at £349. That means that for a little over £700 you’ve got a seriously impressive macro system with a lot of great features.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, it’s totally possible to get some great macro shots with almost any format of camera. That said, there are a number of advantages to the micro four-thirds system and it’s definitely something that I would recommend to someone looking to get into macro photography.



Having previously shot macro with full-frame only, I can honestly say that I didn’t feel there was a noticeable difference in quality while switching to micro four-thirds and it was definitely an enjoyable shooting experience.

You can check out our used department here.

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