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Full Frame battle reloaded. A no way to go for Panasonic/Olympus?


Make no mistake! We can be pretty sure Olympus and Panasonic will not launch any new system with larger sensor in the near future. There is still a lot to do in the m43 world to defend the primacy also against the future Canon mirrorless system. But the Full Frame battle just restarted after a long time of silence. Today Canon announced the Canon 5dmarkIII ($3500 at Amazon) and Nikon announced the Nikon D800 and D800E a couple of weeks ago.

So just for fun I made a short list of advantages and disadvantages of a hypothetical “Macro Four Thirds” system with FF sensor :)

– Currently only Leica are offering a Full Frame digital mirrorless system. But the Leica M9 is incredibly expensive (Click here) and there is plenty of room below that price range.
– You could make Full Frame lenses backwards compatible to the m43 system. One lens to rule them all :) -> Disadvantage the lens would be bigger
– Marketing: It gives a kind of magical and professional aura if you can offer a Full Frame system. Sounds stupid but it is not. I know of many people that buy new and more expensive cameras just to feel like a “hero”.

– It’s expensive to build up a new system. And Panasonic/Olympus have limited resources.
– Also the service has to be improved to satisfy the professional needs.
– The profit margin is larger on small sensor systems than on Full Frame camera systems.
– Lenses would be bigger and one of the main advantages (size!) over the FF DSRL market would be less visible.

Now it’s up to you to let us know what you would do:

And here is the question: Would you buy into a mirrorless Full Frame system?

View Results

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My two cent: 99% of us don’t need Full Frame. If you need absolute image quality for special work like studio photography or big prints than it may be better for you to go medium format. Or if you want that nice 3D depth of field feeling than buy a camera like my Mamiya 7.


  • Berbu

    Until FF NEX-9 kills everything, I’ll be with M43. D800E might be a great camera, though.

    • NEX and E-mount, so we can use NEX lens on a FF camera by E-mount.?
      But rumors say Sony come by A99 so is FF soon.

    • No, don’t rush into NEX-9. Wait until NEX-11 or NEX-12 because they’ll be even more super-awesome. Better yet, I hear the NEX-17 will be really great, and the NEX-21 will be absolutely amazing.

      Nothing worth taking pictures of will happen between now and then, so there’s no reason not to wait until the super-perfect camera of your dreams comes onto the market.

      • JimD

        Yeah! Yeah! Lets all wait together and show the manufactures they ain’t givin’ what we want. I’ll find an old box brownie and use that.

      • Steve

        Of course Lytro will change EVERYTHING.

        • Medved

          Made my day. =)
          Oh, wait, you forgot, FF Lytro.

          • Keith

            FF Foveon Lytro, or go home!

  • Camaman

    I think I will stick with m43. Its there nkw where I hoped it would be 1.5yr ago when I bought D7000.
    If Canikon or anyone else ever makes a FF mirorless they are gonna have to rebuild all of their lenses if they want to sell cameras to people who need IQ and a smaller package.
    They are at the point where their lenses are huge. Still using the old unimaginative designs…
    They just didnt think the small camera market was ever returning. And invested all that work into pro and pro looking gear and clunky plastic cameras and lenses

  • Camaman

    I would consider a FF if they make a hit camera like this:
    Rangefinder styled body with 1:1 full image circle sensor
    Screw drive for AF lenses, CDAF optimised
    Small FF lenses like they used to be
    0,85x OLED 2000×2000 EVF

    IMO that should be the next Leica. That would be worth dreaming for.

    • Medved

      And price it like a private jet plane… (sorry, just joking)

  • scooby70

    The only thing lacking with MFT IMVHO is the ability to get narrow DoF and keep the framing. A 50mm f1.4 is a nice thing on a full frame camera and gives much scope for DoF control and creativity and you just don’t get the same from a 25mm f1.4 or even the f0.95 I own unless you change your framing by reducing the camera to subject distance and then it’s a different picture.

    • you should adapt to the different situation: smaller sensor,shorter FL…ofcourse it gives less DOF. Try a 50mm instead, yes you need more distance but the longer FL gives narrower DOF in return.If you do alot of people photography, a 85 to 105 mm might be interesting too.

      • scooby70

        Err, thanks but I do know that there are ways around the DoF but as I said (and I think you missed my point) it’s then a different picture.

  • One thing that people forget is that to get Leica quality on FF you need Leica quality, the absolute top, and therefore expensive. And even then Leica is not competitive at extreme focal ranges and high ISO.

    If you don’t believe me look at comparative tests in blogs. In fact the resolution advantage is vanishing, and so it was for the 5D II. Improvements in sensor have been much faster. Fuji might have chosen a FF sensor and instead chose a cropped one.

    In mirrorless a shorter register allows to shrink lenses in the normal to wide range, but if your sensor is too big you will always have fuzzy edges when going wide. Because of shorter distance to flange, the incidence of rays on the sensor will be too shallow.

  • pnb

    Olympus made a very deliberate, calculated choice about 10 years ago when they selected the 43rds sensor size. They proceeded to build a whole system around that choice. Now, when sensor technology is finally validating their path by providing sensors that are closing in on reaching the resolving capabilities of their lenses and the combination is closing the gap on providing top quality in a more compact system, and their system of lenses and support gear is becoming extensive, why on earth do people suggest they they go with a larger sensor? Their strategy is finally coming to fruition.


  • Z

    Hmmm, looking at the sensor sizes, there is a huge gap between 35mm and MF. I wonder if there is room for a sensor in between 35mm and MF… it would be a light MF (smaller and cheaper lenses), yet higher MP/quality than 35mm. Tricky.

  • PaulB

    I voted Yes, but I really meant Maybe. It will depend on lenses, focus and EVF quality, and price/performance. As already noted the price of a Leica M9 is a huge barrier for most. Other than Leica, Sony is the most likely to do so at this time. But, it will probably need to be based on their Alpha lenses & sensors, since the E-mount lenses probably won’t cover a full frame sensor; though the E-mount will fit a full frame sensor, since it is larger in diameter than the M-mount.

    So until then, I am probably going to stay with m43. Though, if M43 was to get a good 24mp sensor, and a few more high quality wide angle prime lenses, there would be no need for full frame at all.


  • krugorg

    So, I guess there is not a lot to talk about until we start seeing E-M5 RAW output and reviews? I mean, otherwise, I am really wondering why this was even a post on 43rumors and why there are 200+ comments.

    Ummmm… full frame? Yeah, I thought the whole point of m4/3 was that we could have a smaller system.

  • shuffnet

    I would think the new omd sensor has to be a bit bigger because of the new ibis. if you correct that much the sensor has to be bigger or the image would fall outside the sensor

  • reverse stream swimmer

    When launching a new mount, several new lenses needs to accompanying,
    such is the case for Fujifilm with their X-Pro1:

    X Mount Lenses at launch:
    – 18mm f/2.0 pancake
    – 35mm f/1.4
    – 60mm f/2.4 Macro

    These are the lenses coming in fall of 2012:
    – 14mm f/2.8
    – 18-72mm f/4.0 with IS

    These are the lenses coming in 2013:
    – 28mm f/2.8 pancake
    – 23mm f/2.0
    – 72-200mm f/4.0 IS
    – 12-24mm f/4.0 IS


    Sometimes we also hear some overwintering film enthusiast, eager to see the old lenses behave in angle of view similar to original on his/hers own old film cameras.

    However, it’s most likely a bad idea, even reusing old ill performing manual lenses made for film onto modern camera bodies, such as the Nikon D800 and Canon EOS-5D.

    At least, when paying such a large amount of money for a 35mm sensor camera body, match it with a modern coated lens with AF. Furthermore, the Canon lens mount has already such a short register, that most of the old manual lenses will easily adapt. Of course, the Leica M is the exception.

    Actually, what’s in it with FX/FF at all? Doesn’t Canon and Nikon cut this market for themselves already? At least with respect to DSLR.

    What’s left? Maybe a mirrorless FX/FF camera, but that again would require a new lens mount and a portfolio of new lenses. The most likely candidates here are Pentax/Ricoh & Sony. I guess Sony is one of the vendors, that actually can provide the broadest selection of sensors for a 24x36mm venture.

    • Bart

      ‘Classic’ SMC Takumars, Zuiko OM lenses, Minolta MD lenses are all manual focus, and there are many of those around that have very good coatings, even to modern standards. Also, many of those have been in production till the late 90s at least.

      Vignetting is however a serious issue with classic film lenses, regardless of age, especially so with wider angle lenses, and wide-angle lenses is usually where ‘old film users’ start craving for their old film lenses.

      So, the thing that such photographers want to gain from using legacy glass on a modern full-frame digital body isn’t going to work as well as they hope in many cases, but, if you understand what to expect and what to try, it can work really really well.

      Not all applications need auto-focus, and critical focus using magnified live-view is as accurate as it gets, comparable to using a ground-glass and magnifying loupe on a large-format camera, and totally beyond what you can do with an unaided viewfinder on any (D)SLR.

      Last but not least, the Canon EOS bodies need physical modifications in order to be able to mount Minolta MD manual focus lenses (or you need to modify the lenses, but that is no option when also using them on other cameras).

      • reverse stream swimmer

        That’s true, both Canon and Sigma (the latter which more and less copied the Canon mount) have 44 mm flange focal distance, making them the easiest adaptable DSLRs apart from Four Thirds. Minolta and Konica I think had the shortest ‘FFD’, according to

        Actually, RICOH should be the most suitable vendor in providing an exchangeable module for FF/FX with their camera. They actually already has started by providing support for Leica M lenses, albeit the sensor still is only APS-C though. Just get a 24x36mm sensor, and roll out adpaters for all the ‘Classic’ DLSR mounts…

        -Realistic or just a pipe dream?

        • Bart

          You’d need a sensor that doesn’t care too much about angle of incidence. I think Fuji is currently the only one who has the technology to do that relatively well for a relatively affordable price.

          But as long as you keep to the ‘tele side’ of things, this is far less of a problem, and such a module for the Ricoh system could work pretty well.

  • reverse stream swimmer

    @ admin
    Just to let you know there’s an updated Wiki picture showing sensor sizes on:

    This wiki image is only missing the newest Canon G1X size, however here that is:

    • The G1X sensor is so close in size to 4/3’s as to be indistinguishable. I suspect that the extra fraction of a millimeter is only there so that Canon can say “our sensor is bigger than 4/3’s” and just barely get away with it.

  • Riley

    right now sensor size appears important, and it is indeed useful for focus separation for in-situ photographers. But mFT seems to be being advantaged by ultra fast lenses which are have a tendency to erode this advantage, I describe lenses that so far FF has not been able to access.

    For all the rest, processing will displace the important features of noise performance and dynamic range, while still beholding of compactness for body and lenses.

    Processing is the future, not sensor size.

  • Peter Heckert

    Use a 64 Mpix fullframe and make a centered 50% crop.
    You get /exactly/ the same image that you get out of a 16 Mpix 4/3 with the same lens attached.

    Now, a 4/3 camera is lighter and possibly faster. So, if you anyway make crops, you could use a 4/3 camera and make 8 images. Possibly you get more out of it ;-)

    Ok, it is admitted, for landscape and other wide angle high resolution photos fullframe is better.


    • Riley

      ‘it is admitted, for landscape and other wide angle high resolution photos fullframe is better’

      UWA lenses are really so difficult that this is a lens dependent decision. You could choose a Canon 24/1.4 prime and be right, or a 16-35 and be less happy.

  • Roland

    Correct me please if I’m wrong,
    Isn’t Leica Full Frame ?
    Isn’t Leica Lenses small ?
    Why can’t we physically make small lenses because of the larger format when Leica makes it without a problem ?

    I’ll be happy with Leica size full frame that is cheaper

    • Riley

      yes and yes.
      But did you ask yourself if they were autofocus, auto-aperture. There are any number of film era lenses that can be fitted to various FF bodies, myself I’m rather fond of Contax on my 5D. Likewise these lenses are compact compared to today’s AF lenses but not as easy or as quick to use.

      It is the same with camera bodies, usually larger size means more utility options, hence full spec FF bodies are huge, low utility bodies like M9 are compact. Full spec 4/3rds bodies are big, low utility 4/3rds bodies like EPL1 are tiny.

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