Friday, July 4, 2014

Cost of Micro Four Thirds camera vs Full Frame camera

Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera bodies are relatively inexpensive, compared to a full frame (FF) camera, but the MFT lenses are much more expensive than FF camera lenses. Is the cost justified? Here is the math.

For this study, I compare a top tier full frame Nikon camera versus a top tier micro four thirds Olympus camera. I use a range of lenses that a serious general photographer might purchase, citing prices (in US$) from the reputable B&H store. For lenses, I chose FF lenses that are closest in focal length/maximum aperture to the MFT equivalent.

Nikon D800 (full frame sensor)
$2997: camera body
$121: 50mm f/1.8D lens
$360: 24mm f/2.8D AF
$899: 180mm f/2.8D
$670: 24-70mm f/2.8-f/4.0D

Olympus OMD EM1 (micro four thirds sensor)
$1399: camera body
$399: 25mm f/1.8 (*DOF=f/3.7) M.Zuiko
$799: 12mm f/2.0 (*DOF=f/4.0) M.Zuiko
$899: 75mm f/1.8 (*DOF=f/3.7) M.Zuiko
$999: 12-40mmf/2.8 (*DOF=f/5.6) M.Zuiko

In summary, although a MFT camera body costs only about half of a FF body, the cost a complete lens/body system is actually only about 10% different.

You might notice that the true DOF difference is 2 f-stops worse in the MFT than in the FF system. Therefore the deal breaker is not in the price, but in the equivalent depth of field. That is to say, if you want maximum depth-of-field in your images, a FF camera is irreplaceable.

(*DOF = Depth of Field equivalent. A MFT sensor gives the lens a crop factor of 2. Not only is the focal length multiplied by a factor of 2, but the depth of field also increases by 2 f-stops)