Micro 4/3 Architecture Photography – is this a viable option?

I have recently purchased a micro 4/3 camera for my travel photography. I will explain why shortly.

But having tried the camera out it got me thinking – is micro 4/3 architecture photography possible? I have so far been using a full-frame Canon DSLR for my architectural photography work. Having bought and used the Olympus OM-D EM 10 though I now have options. So I am going to put my micro 4/3 camera and my full frame DSLR against each other on commercial architectural photography shoots.

I know, I should have titled this post micro 4/3 vs full frame! Too obvious!

My initial thoughts though are - why not? The combination of the amazing lenses and the technology in micro 4/3 camera bodies have opened my eyes to exciting possibilities.

I am of course talking about commercial architectural photography using micro four thirds, not just me taking nice photos of buildings just for me!

The beginning of my journey into micro four thirds architectural photography.

This is the first post about micro 4/3 architectural photography, which is very much an introduction to this exciting new world for me. Join me on my photography blog as I explore the possibilities of architecture photography using the micro 4/3 format of mirrorless camera. And the wonderful world of micro 4/3 in general.

A bit about me

I am an architectural photographer based in Dorset on the south coast of England. I have worked in construction all my life, and I am a Chartered Construction Manager, MCIOB.

I am also professionally qualified in photography, having the designation ABIPP.

Oh yes, I have over 35 years of photographic experience, first as an amateur and for over 10 years as a professional photographer.

What I specialise in

Architectural photography is my specialism. That and landscape photography. And travel photography, which is my thing that I do when I am abroad.

Travel photography has many similarities with architectural photography and landscape photography if you think about it. Well it does the way I do it. And this is a great way to slightly broaden my photographic base whilst at the same time staying with the core skills and disciplines required for my architectural work.

And then there are my photography websites

One more thing about me – I have three websites now.

And there are more websites in the planning stages.

What camera gear do I use?

I have been using Canon SLRs and now DSLRs all my life. My current working camera is the Canon 6D, which I use with three lenses

  • Canon 17-40mm F4L

  • Canon 24-105mm F4L

  • Canon 70-200mm F4L IS

I have bought and sold various other lenses including a tilt shift lens that I never used.

And this is the only gear that I use. 90% of my architectural photography work is taken with the 17-40mm lens, and 95% of that work with the focal length at 17mm.

For my travel photography I tend to use the 24-105mm lens, with the 17-40 for specific shoots like sunrises.

I find that the 24-105 lens suits most of my travel photography needs, minimising the amount of gear that I carry.

Why have I bought a micro 4/3 camera?

I was on the wonderful Greek Island of Rhodes. I took my Canon gear with me in my Peak Design Everyday Backpack.

And the bag stayed in the boot of the car a lot more than I was happy with. For day to day travel photography stuff I used my iPhone, and I only used my Canon 6D for sunrise shoots which were dedicated photography time for me.

I had basically got fed up with my Canon 6D and the size of the gear.

This was the beginning of my transition into micro 4/3 photography.

The original intention was that I was going to but a micro 4/3 camera for travel photography, and stick with my Canon 6D for my commercial architectural photography work. The size of the gear is much less of an issue when I am on a commercial shoot in the UK.

There is a view which I get that bigger cameras are actually an advantage on commercial shoots, as bigger cameras look more professional. Rightly or wrongly I can see this.

When I am travelling the size of the gear really is an issue though. Luggage allowances are never going to get bigger, and there seems to be less and less overhead locker storage.

And I have other gear that I want to take on trips that I just do not have the room or luggage allowance for.

So size and weight are important factors to me.

Sorry, back to the point

Back to my architectural photography work, I have decided that I can live with having two camera systems. If I had one that would be better though.

So, I am going to give micro 4/3 a go on my commercial architectural photography work. To start with this is in addition to my Canon 6D – I will take two shots of the same view, one with each camera. This will allow me to be able to make direct comparisons between the two, which I am really looking forward to doing.

I have to be happy that I can get the standard of photos that I want for my commercial clients using micro 4/3rds before even considering jumping ship and changing systems.

And one last point – I have to say this

I want a new camera. I have written for years about not being obsessed with gear, but I do want a new camera. I want something shiny, new and different. I think I have been using the same gear in the same way for too long.

Image quality is my number one priority

Nothing else matters. My Canon 6D has produced consistently excellent results for nearly 5 years now, and has never let me down.

I will only switch from my full frame Canon DSLR to a micro 4/3 camera if I am fully satisfied that the image quality is at the least comparable to that with my Canon 6D. And also that it is again at the least as easy to use and as reliable.

To prove this there will be a significant amount of time using both systems together.

What micro 4/3 camera have I bought?

I bought an Olympus OM-D EM10 Mk 2. Hardly a snappy title I know! I bought a second hand camera from EBay for £312. I used money I have earned from my writing on the Improve Photography website.

This camera came with the Olympus 12-42mm kit lens.

And it is tiny! And is a really nice camera in hand, which is important to me.

And it fits in the glove box in my car (now that I have cleared all my stuff out of there). I can’t physically get my Canon 6D in the glovebox with a lens on – yes I tried this.

What about the crop factor with micro 4/3?

Ah. Here is the problem. A micro 4/3 camera has a 2x crop factor. This means that my 12-42mm lens is the same as a lens on my Canon 6D with a 24-84mm lens.

So there is an issue here. Thankfully there is a fix.

How do I get the equivalent of 17mm on a micro 4/3 camera?

Simple. I have to buy a new lens. For my Canon 6D to get as wide as I want I would have to buy the enormous Canon 11-24mm lens, which costs just under £3,000. And it is enormous.

My Canon 17-40mm lens has served me well over the years, and is not an expensive lens. You can buy a new lens for less than £700.

But I have wanted a wider lens than this for some time. 14mm I have been looking for.

With ultra-wide angle lenses each extra mm makes a huge difference, much more so than at the telephoto end of things.

So what is the answer to my problem?

There are two micro 4/3 7-14mm lenses. Just what I want. That gives me the 14mm that I have been after for a long time now. And I mean a long time.

The lenses are

It is worth saying again – 95% of my architectural photography work is taken at the 17mm focal length, the widest I have.

Getting down to 14mm is very exciting for me, and more importantly will give me the extra 3mm of wide angleness that will enhance my photography work.

Is angleness an actual word? It is now!

This is a very important point to me – I only buy gear when it will help me to improve my photography.

A Panasonic lens on an Olympus camera?

I know. I cannot get my head around this. The micro 4/3 mount is universal across manufacturers. Which opens up lots of possibilities.

And is completely alien to me as a lifetime Canon user.

How much does the micro 4/3 setup cost

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mk 2 with 12-42mm lens - £312 second hand

  • Olympus 7-14mm F2.8 Pro - £929

  • The Panasonic 7-14mm F4 is going for £750 at the time of writing.

  • The Canon 11-24mm lens is going for circa £2800.

And that is a big difference. And these smaller costs apply across the board.

My initial findings of micro 4/3

I am really enjoying using my new Olympus camera. I know there is a novelty factor to this, but the smaller form factor is very appealing.

And I love the manual controls that are all immediately to hand allowing me to make the critical adjustments that I need to make.

And the fact that when I put my eye to the viewfinder the screen on the back of the camera turns off and the wonderful Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) kicks in. And when I move my eye away from the EVF the screen turns on.

Very cool and one less thing that I have to do every time I am making a composition.

What are my initial thoughts of the Olympus OM-D EM10?

So, intital thoughts are that I am loving this new camera system. I can see how the technology will help me with the day to day work of taking photos on commercial shoots.

What next?

I am going to try the Olympus and Panasonic lenses at Castle Cameras, and buy one of them. And then I am going to take photos on the next commercial shoots using my Olympus EM10 and my Canon 6D.

And then I am going to process images in exactly the same way and compare the results.

And if I am happy with the Olympus EM10 I am going to invest in an EM5, which has a very cool feature that I will love to use. Basically the camera can take 4 images and put them together, giving an 80MP image. It moves half a pixel one way from one shot to the next.

And this is meant to provide excellent resolution, which will be perfect for certainly my interior photography work

And this is another enhancement to my commercial photography work which will have tangible benefits.

Here is the first image taken with my Olympus camera OM-D EM10 Mk 2

Winter morning landscape captured using my Olympus OMD EM10 camera

Winter morning landscape captured using my Olympus OMD EM10 camera

This is the first photo that I took, processed using Aurora HDR.

And I have to say I really like it. No I absolutely love it!

What is the end point?

My potential end point is moving all in to micro 4/3. If I do that I will fund this by selling my Canon gear and replacing it with this much more compact kit.

And I will of course need a new, smaller camera bag. I will also need some other new kit that compliments my new gear.

And then I will use all the gear on my commercial work and also on my upcoming foreign trips.

The other end point is that I use my micro 4/3 stuff for travel and general use, and my Canon 6D and lenses for my architectural photography work.

Further reading

If you found this post interesting check out the post titled Professional photographers who use micro four thirds - really? for more info on micro four thirds photography.

I have also started a Micro Four Thirds Photography Portfolio page where I am uploading images taken using my Olympus micro four thirds camera.

Summary

Well this is all very exciting. Will I end up using micro 4/3 for architecture photography? At the time of writing I am not sure but I suspect that I will.

The 7-14mm lens is a complete game changer for me, allowing me to do things I cant do with my Canon 6D. I do not want the very large 11-24mm lens – that does not work for me.

Next thing then is to go shopping for a lovely new lens - and that in itself is an exciting proposition!

Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB - Photographer, writer, blogger, website creator