Micro Four Thirds vs. DSLR Cameras

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Image: Wikimedia Commons (Vincent Lee)

Many people are familiar with DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex) cameras. Most DSLR cameras use an APS-C sensor, which is much larger than the sensor in your cell phone or your point-and-shoot camera. A large sensor allows the camera to receive more light—and typically, a larger sensor means that the camera will produce better images. However, in order to house this larger sensor the overall weight and size of the camera also increases—not to mention the cost of the camera. This is where a smaller, yet capable camera sensor system comes in: Micro Four Thirds.

Micro Four Thirds vs. APS-C
Sensor sizes vary significantly, with larger sensors capturing more light. Image: Wikimedia Commons (Moxfyre)

The Micro Four Thirds System is a relatively new camera standard that has an image sensor which is much larger than a point-and-shoot’s sensor, but still smaller than an APS-C sensor. This allows users to have image quality similar to a digital SLR camera while reducing the size, weight, and costs associated with digital SLR cameras.

The main advantages of Micro Four Thirds cameras include:

  • Reduced weight and size as compared to DSLR cameras
  • Excellent image quality as compared to point-and-shoot cameras
  • Interchangeable lenses on a single standard (it does not matter if you’re shooting Panasonic or Olympus—the Micro Four Thirds standard allows for lenses to be interchanged as long as the lens is Micro Four Thirds)
  • Less expensive than DSLR cameras, while retaining most of the image quality
Panasonic GX8
Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Panasonic GX8 allow for interchangeable lenses. Image was unaltered: Wikimedia Commons (Takeaway)
 One of the main features of Micro Four Thirds cameras is that the Micro Four Thirds standard allows for interchangeable lenses on any Micro Four Thirds cameras, provided that the lens is Micro Four Thirds. This allows the user to choose his or her lens and mount it to the camera instead of being stuck to a fixed lens on a point-and-shoot camera. Additionally, it does not matter if your lens is made by Panasonic and you are mounting it on an Olympus camera—as long as the lens is Micro Four Thirds, it will be interchangeable among different Micro Four Thirds cameras. This is a significant benefit, as users do not have to decide between manufacturers when purchasing lenses (i.e., Nikon and Canon).
Olympus OM-D E-M5
Cameras like the Olympus OM-D include features like a magnesium alloy body and 9 FPS shooting, trending closer to the features offered by high-end DSLRS. Image: Wikimedia Commons (Vincent Lee)
Created by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008, the Micro Four Thirds system has been gaining popularity among both the average consumer and the enthusiast. Upcoming cameras like the Olympus OM-D ($999 for body only, $1299 with 14-50mm kit lens) includes features usually found in high-end DSLRs such as a Magnesium Alloy body and 9 FPS capability. For the consumer looking for a simpler point-and-shoot type of camera can opt for a cheaper Panasonic DMC-GF2, which costs less than $400 with a 14-42mm lens and offers much better image quality than a comparable point-and-shoot in the same price range.


This new camera format is causing many users of DSLRs to sell their camera gear and move over to the Micro Four Thirds system. Keep in mind, a full frame DSLR such as the Canon 5d Mark II will still have superior image quality when compared to a Micro Four Thirds camera, because of the larger image sensor. However, for users who do not shoot professionally and want to carry a smaller, lighter, camera that offers outstanding image quality—the Micro Four Thirds system offers more for less, when compared to a bulky DSLR. And it is this “bang for the buck + size + weight + image quality” combination that is making the Micro Four Thirds system gain so much popularity.