Browsing photography sites these days would give folks the impression that ‘everyone’ is buying full frame camera gear. And, based on the opinions of ‘reviewers’, it would be hard not to think that the only cameras of any merit are full frame or larger. This article counters some of these perspectives. It also provides my opinion on why M4/3 is ideal for Baby Boomers.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
My anecdotal perspective
Since we added Olympus M4/3 camera gear to our business we’ve been getting a number of personal emails from our readers as well as some comments on this website. In these communications, numerous readers have stated that they have switched to a smaller sensor system and have gone to M4/3. If my memory serves, so far seven of our readers have told me that they have specifically switched to the Olympus OM-D E-M1X. Some have left their previous full frame systems behind.
Over the past number of months when I’ve been out and about with my Olympus camera equipment, I’ve been meeting a growing number of people who have downsized their camera gear. Many switching to M4/3. In terms of an age group most have been like me… Baby Boomers.
Obviously, the name and focus of this website has likely contributed to an equipment skew with our readership. Nonetheless I find this anecdotal information interesting. Let’s get into why I feel that M4/3 is an ideal camera system for Baby Boomers.
The last camera generation
Baby Boomers are the last generation that had a strong skew towards dedicated cameras for their imaging needs. Some generation Xers (people born from 1965-1976) have a reasonable orientation to dedicated cameras. By the time the Millennials came along (folks born from 1977 to 1995) new cellphone technology developed a firm foothold as they entered their prime camera buying ages. This has been a major factor in the volume decline of the camera market.
That’s not to say that all Baby Boomers use dedicated cameras. Many have switched to cell phones. Based on their imaging needs they can be well served with that technology.
Baby Boomers grew up in the days of film. We can remember the cost pressures associated with sending in a roll of film to be developed. We’d cross our fingers not knowing how many decent prints would come back. Digital photography for us was a godsend that delivered much lower cost imaging. All kinds of creative freedom. And the ability to truly customize our images in post.
When Baby Boomers create images, it is often a more involved experience. We have more appreciation for camera settings and the lenses we choose. EXIF data actually means something to us. Many of us are not skewed to ‘selfies’ or the emerging trend of ‘slow-fies’.
The end result of growing up with dedicated cameras is that image quality is important to Baby Boomers. Many of us also have a degree of disposable income. This allows us to pursue our photographic interests with monetary investments that would be more difficult for younger folks to make.
Size, Weight and Cost
As we age, our ability and interest in hauling around large, bulky camera equipment declines. So too does our interest in lugging tripods/heads and other paraphernalia. M4/3 camera equipment allows us to have an interchangeable lens camera system that is smaller and lighter than larger sensor equipment. And when comparing similar camera gear, M4/3 is more cost effective than larger sensor equipment.
You can visit various camera manufacturer websites to do your own comparisons based on the specific camera gear in which you have an interest. Here are a few quick Olympus versus Nikon comparisons. All are based on current suggested list prices in Canada using data from manufacturer websites.
M.Zuiko PRO 12-45 mm f/4 zoom (efov 24-90 mm), $850 CDN, 254 grams
Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 zoom, $1,400 CDN, 500 grams
M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 zoom (efov 24-80 mm), $1,350, 382 grams
Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/2.8 zoom, $3,200, 805 grams
M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom (efov 80-300 mm), $2,000, 760 grams, 880 grams with tripod collar attached
Nikkor Z 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom, $3,600, 1360 grams
Olympus OM-D E-M1X body, $3900, 849 grams body only
Nikon D6 body, $9000, 1270 grams body only
The M4/3 system has a wide selection of lenses available which gives M4/3 owners a plethora of lens choices to suit their specific photographic needs.
“Good Enough for Me” Image Quality
There’s no doubt that full frame camera gear has the advantage in some photographic situations. For example, photographing moving subjects in poor lighting. So, M4/3 equipment will not be ideally suited to all Baby Boomers. Especially those who frequently photograph moving subjects in low light.
Depending on the camera model match-ups, the differences in sensor performance are not as large as many folks assume. When comparing dynamic range and colour depth at ISO-200, there is often about a one stop difference between M4/3 and full frame sensor cameras. It can be less than that when comparing M4/3 with some Canon full frame cameras. Readers can do their own research by visiting DxOMark or photonstophotos.com.
The idea of “good enough for me” image quality is well articulated in this YouTube video by the highly regarded UK wildlife photographer Andy Rouse. It certainly can give us cause to critically assess what level of image quality we really need when some notable professional photographers have switched to M4/3 with Olympus.
As we age, our ability to handhold our camera gear at slower shutter speeds can be more challenging. Using a M4/3 system like Olympus gives Baby Boomers handheld capability that many would think is simply impossible. Like the 5 second handheld exposure above.
Being able to shoot M4/3 cameras handheld at slower shutter speeds when compared to full frame gear, also reduces the practical differences in dynamic range and colour depth between the two formats.
Special Creative Features
Many Baby Boomers like to experiment with their photography. Using a M4/3 sensor system like Olympus can provide them with interesting creative features. Pro Capture, Live ND, Live Composite, Handheld Hi Res, and in-camera focus stacking to name a few. Once we’ve tasted more creative flexibility and options with our photography… it is very hard to go back.
Baby Boomer Summary
If you’re a Baby Boomer like me, you may appreciate a smaller, lighter camera system. One that is more cost effective than full frame gear. A system that provides “good enough for me” image quality. Great image stabilization to aid with handheld photography. And, offers many interesting creative options.
Since buying Olympus M4/3 gear, I’ve found that I haven’t had this much fun with my photography for quite some time. When I’m out with my M4/3 gear I feel more energized due to the additional creative options that I now have at my fingertips. Using full frame camera gear is something that I simply cannot imagine ever doing again. For me, it would feel like taking a huge step backwards in terms of overall image creating capability. You may… or may not… feel the same way.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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