Wildlife Photography with Micro Four Thirds Cameras

mot mot eating a lizard sharp i used single point autofocus

If you’re wondering whether micro four thirds is suitable for wildlife photography, as someone who has been photographing wildlife with micro four thirds cameras for the past decade, I can confidently say yes! Even in a photography world dominated by full-frame cameras, there are several advantages to using micro four thirds for capturing wildlife.

Whether you already own a micro four thirds camera and are interested in exploring wildlife photography or are considering purchasing one specifically for this purpose, this article will provide you with the essential information you need.

What is Micro Four Thirds? When I mention using a micro four thirds camera, it’s not uncommon for people to be unfamiliar with the term. Micro four thirds cameras are characterized by their “four thirds type” camera sensor, which measures 17.3 x 13mm and has an aspect ratio of 4:3, hence the name.

Micro four thirds cameras are mirrorless and, with a few exceptions like some drones, feature an interchangeable lens system. Currently, OM Digital Solutions (Olympus) and Panasonic are the primary manufacturers of micro four thirds cameras and lenses.

To better understand the size comparison, refer to the graphic below, which illustrates how the four thirds sensor compares to other sensor sizes.


The sensor in micro four-thirds cameras is smaller, but it has its own disadvantages. One of the most obvious is a lower performance in low-light conditions. There’s also a 2-fold the crop-factor that is applicable not only to the focal lengths, but your aperture. This makes it more difficult to achieve a shallow distance of focus when using micro four-thirds cameras. (For instance, if you want to achieve the same effect that you get with 50mm f/1.8 on a full-frame camera you’d require 25mm f/0.9 on micro four thirds.)

Why continue to shoot micro four-thirds in spite of the inherent drawbacks? Don’t be worried! The style compensates the difference in a variety of ways that I will explore in depth. They’re also a good option when shooting for a limited budget. This for a lot of us is an extremely crucial element.

Micro four-thirds technology is also developing at a rapid pace. In the past ten years the cameras have influenced numerous trends that are now being adopted by competitors APS-C as well as full-frame camera. (Notice the number of items on this list of the features that Every Camera Should include are micro four thirds-based.)

Light Weight

The biggest benefit micro four thirds has over other formats is its compact size of the body and light and excellent lenses.

The camera I have is a Panasonic G9 weighs only 658 g, my telephoto 100-300 lens weighs 520g the 60mm macro lens weights around 185 g with a weight of 1363 grams (3.0 kilograms). In comparision, a full frame camera equipped with a 600mm lens will weigh approximately 4500 grams (9.9 tons).

This light setup makes taking handheld pictures easier, as well as the hike with all my gear an easy task, which results in better pictures. I can go on long hikes with my entire gear without needing to make the tough choice of which lens to keep at home.

Less Need for a Tripod

I rarely use a tripod when it comes to wildlife photography. In reality, I’ve only had one tripod, which was mostly damaged over the past several years. Even with a telephoto lens I’ve found that I don’t need a tripod to ensure my camera is in place. This is due to the fact that my lens and camera are both lightweight.

The option of shooting without a tripod offers numerous advantages. It is first, one less item to buy. Additionally, tripods are heavy and heavy, which makes them difficult to transport. The most important thing is that using a camera without tripod is more mobile and easier to establish your composition.

A single of the crucial aspects of wildlife photography is to control the elements you have control over compose your photograph. Tripods limit you by restricting the precise place you can photograph from. With the option of changing places as the environment changes I’ve been able make photos that would be more difficult.

The image below is an illustration. In this instance the Blue-Crowned Motmot was flying around within the foliage under low light. There was just a tiny opening in the forest through which I was able to get an excellent view of the bird. I needed to keep the camera above my head. Although I didn’t have an appropriate tripod and using an aperture of 1/125, I was in a position to be in a steady position to get this photo. I wouldn’t be able to steady take this shot if had a 600mm lens in a large frame.

mot mot eating a lizard sharp i used single point autofocus
DC-G9 + LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 640, 1/125, f/5.6

Landscape photographers and other photographers may not appreciate the no-tripod advantage however, it’s an absolute lifesaver in wildlife photography. It is common to shoot from non-comfortable and awkward positions to capture wild animals and it’s helpful being as flexible as you can.

Backpack Fits All

Small and compact equipment is ideal for travel where I’m not certain what images I should anticipate. I can squeeze all the lenses I own, even telephotos in my camera bag and still have room to add more gear or layers. The convenience of putting all my gear into one backpack of a mid-sized size is to be underestimated. It helps me to hike more easily and also beneficial during traveling by air.

It’s also useful for shooting in tropical areas as a downpour can occur at any time. I can stow my equipment in my waterproof bag swiftly, and not have to remove lenses.

Galapagos Tortoise in the rain
DC-G9 + OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro @ 60mm, ISO 500, 1/1600, f/3.5

Display Advantages

Micro Four Thirds cameras I’ve owned had excellent displays, including the LCD monitor and in the electronic viewfinder. It’s becoming a norm as mirrorless cameras have begun catching up to DSLRs however I’ve enjoyed the benefits of display of micro four thirds cameras for many years.

1. Electronic Viewfinders

DSLR camera feature an optical viewfinder. This means that the viewfinder provides an unalterable perspective of the surrounding scene. However mirrorless cameras, such as micro four thirds, feature an electronic viewfinder that is digital. I believe that an electronic viewfinder offers many advantages for photographer who shoots wildlife.

For starters to begin, each display accessible via an LCD screen is available in the electronic viewfinder. This lets me use useful tools like focus setting, peaking, and many more, without removing my focus from the viewfinder.

More than that, I consider that the electronic display is an effective method of forecasting how an image will end up looking, as compared to DSLR’s optical viewfinder. The preview I see in my digital viewfinder accurately represents the quality of the picture I’m about to shoot and eliminates the guesswork. It also lets me examine my photographs to determine my composition and sharpness without removing my eyes from the viewfinder.

The electronic viewfinder is ideal for shooting in low lighting since it brightens the display in order to show the way your settings affect the picture. This allows you to compose and focus more easily in dim light.

2. Flexible LCD Monitors

The LCD in the rear of most micro four thirds cameras folds out and articulating. This beats the fixed LCD that is found on a lot of DSLRs. This allows me to use the camera at a variety of angles and still see my composition. This is something I do quite often as a nature photographer!

The entire process might be familiar to photographers using mirrorless from other brands, but these are advantages that have been incorporated into the micro Four Thirds system for years. In any case they are superior to DSLRs in terms of flexibility.

Version 2
E-M1 + LUMIX G VARIO 100-300/F4-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 640, 1/640, f/6.3

High Quality Video

One of the major selling features of micro four thirds cameras is their ability to record video. Being a wildlife photographer I am often tempted to record a video of an interesting scene. Micro Four Thirds cameras traditionally have been the first to offer video features, and the latest mirrorless cameras are getting there.

The videos I’ve made with my Panasonic DC-G9 are very clear even in low-light conditions. A lot of Panasonic micro four-thirds cameras can shoot internal 4K 10 bit footage and their video quality beats out a number of full-frame and APS-C cameras.

Lens Options

One of the issues of microfour thirds cameras is it’s not in use for as long as some systems, so there’s less variety of lenses. Panasonic as well as Olympus are the two major lens makers that offer micro four-thirds lens options. For third-party lenses they are largely entirely manual lenses with fewer than twelve exceptions (mostly Sigma). Sigma).

However, the available lenses are excellent. Micro Four Thirds lenses in all I’ve shot with handle well and are able to focus quickly. They tend to be light, sharp, and inexpensive.

It is important to note that, unlike taking pictures with Canon or Nikon micro four-thirds camera can utilize lenses made by Olympus or Panasonic and Olympus for their camera and is not restricted to lenses from their own brand.

What About Adapters?

In the case of the majority of camera systems, you can always choose to adapting lenses of different brands including Canon or Nikon on micro four-thirds. There are also adapters that have autofocus and aperture control, but they’re generally more expensive and the autofocus may not always work effectively.

However, I haven’t considered transferring large zoom lenses from full frame systems to micro four-thirds. Theoretically, it should be feasible and allow photographers to shoot at supertelephoto focal lengths because of the two-fold crop factor of Micro Four Thirds.

In reality, however I have found that the primary benefits of micro four-thirds are usually lost when you are planning to incorporate larger Telephoto lenses. It becomes a larger system that might require an additional tripod, and has poorer autofocus performance as a standard lens.

Personally, I’ve utilized adapters on my micro four-thirds cameras however, not with large super Telephotos. Instead, I like working with the Laowa 15mm wide-angle f/4 lens, and Laowa’s Laowa 24-mm lens probe, which I have used with adapters for my micro four-thirds cameras. Both lenses are accessible to micro four-thirds photographers without adapters.

In both instances, I’ve opted for the most affordable adapter that is available. Because these Laowa lenses are completely manual, the less expensive adapter won’t cause any loss aside from perhaps a little design quality. If there’s any problems with the alignment of it, which could have led to less sharpness, I haven’t observed it.

I shot this image of a parrot snake using the help of my Laowa 15mm macro lens as well as an adapter for micro four thirds. It’s not the sharpest lens, but it produces some of my top images.

Parrot snake photo taken with laowa 15mm and a lens adapter
DC-G9 ISO 160, 1/100, f/7.1

Focal-reducing adapters are available offered for micro four-thirds shooters and are a costlier method of adapting full-frame or APS-C lenses. A focal reducer is a piece of glass that adjusts to the tiny four thirds crop.

One of the most sought-after are the Metabones 0.64x speed boost that allows Nikon G lenses to be utilized on certain micro four-thirds cameras. Like the name suggests, you can multiply both the aperture and focal length that the lens has by 0.64 to create the new aperture and focal length for micro four thirds cameras. It is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G could be transformed into micro Four Thirds 32mm f/1.2.

But, these kinds of adapters cost a lot and can add bulk or weight into your system. I generally recommend them only if already have lots of lenses in an APS-C or full frame system.

Limitations of Micro Four Thirds

Micro Four Thirds isn’t the best camera to capture wildlife. The goal of this article isn’t to convince the idea of buying micro four thirds cameras to shoot wildlife however, it is to ensure you it’s an alternative. There are some limitations to be taken into consideration.

1. Crop Factor

Since the sensor of the micro four thirds camera is a lot smaller than a full-frame which means that the image you get is in essence “cropped” each time you snap the image. For instance a 300mm lens in micro four thirds cameras camera is cropped to the exact perspective as a lens of 600mm on a full-frame camera.

2.X is the crop ratio that has an impact on the f-stop, as we’ve discussed previously. For instance, if you were to replicate the 300mm f/2.8 lens precisely using micro four-thirds that would require a 150mm f/1.4 (and there isn’t a micro four thirds lens is available). If you’re looking for to capture the full field of view and the bokeh of 300mm f/2.8 there is only one option: full-frame.

In a nutshell, it’s more difficult to achieve a narrow depth of field as well as aesthetic bokeh when using the micro Four Thirds camera. This isn’t a critical issue in wildlife photography, however, having you subject stick out in a blurred background is easier when you have a bigger sensor.

In the image below depicting the below image of an American Crocodile, a full frame lens would have helped me further blur the vegetation in front of it. A 60mm f/2.8 lens in this image is comparable as a visual representation to a 120mm f/5.6 on a full-frame.

American Crocodile in the Florida Everglades with raindrops good composition wildlife photography
DC-G9 + OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro @ 60mm, ISO 400, 1/1300, f/2.8

However, the 2x crop factor is beneficial for putting the most pixels for a distant subject the field of wildlife, and it’s certainly not necessarily a bad thing.

2. Low Light Performance

Micro four thirds aren’t as effective in low light conditions as full frame cameras, as well as APS-C. The difference is around two stops to full-frame cameras. Also that with ISO 400 on micro four thirds, you’d have approximately the same as noise in comparison to ISO 1600 on full-frame (all other things being equally).

The difference isn’t huge but it is not a huge difference in every situation. I can still shoot to about 1600 ISO without worrying about grain ruining my photographs. If I am tolerant of noise, I’ve taken good quality photos as high as ISO 6400. To be precise I would say that you can see that ISO performance of micro-fourths cameras, particularly the latest models, isn’t bad and is still adequate for the majority of scenarios, however larger sensors can perform better.

I took the image below shortly after sunset in very dim light. In this photo I tested the boundaries of the ISO capability of the Panasonic DMC-G2. Even the G2 is a 12-year old camera, performs well in high ISO. Micro Four Thirds cameras of today have much better grain.

Egret at sunset shot with fast shutterspeed high iso correct camera settings for wildlife photography
Panasonic DMC-G2 + LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4-5.6, ISO 800, 1/160, f/5.6

3. Limited Telephoto Options

The main drawback of shooting wildlife using micro four-thirds cameras is that range of telephoto lenses designed for micro four-thirds cameras is very limited. The lenses that are more affordable typically start at 300mm. There are also some 400mm options. The better quality glass can be quite expensive too.

It’s not as bad as it might seem however. Because of the two-times the crop factor of micro four thirds, a photo taken at 300mm with micro four thirds cameras will produce a photo that is as good to one shot with a full-frame cameras at 600mm.

There are only a handful of wide-aperture lenses suitable for micro four thirds. There are three lenses: Olympus 75mm f/1.8, Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 are the three choices. There’s also 300mm f/4 prime lens which is a close match to a supertelephoto of the highest quality of both brands, but isn’t able to allow in enough light.

This limitation doesn’t seem to be an issue with the subjects I photograph but those who are specialized in remote wildlife photography might need to be wary.


These are my thoughts about micro four thirds for wildlife photography. It’s both excellent and pesky (but generally good)! If I could just snap my fingers and use all the frames in my setup I would probably do it however, there’s nothing to complain about micro four-thirds to photograph wildlife.

The quality of a photographer’s photographs is not influenced by the camera it is the photographer. The performance difference between micro four-thirds and other formats isn’t sufficient to disqualify it for those who want to become wildlife photographers or even professional photographers, depending on their requirements.

Micro Four Thirds has advantages over other cameras, particularly its compactness and the modern features sets. I’ve shot a lot of photos using my micro four-thirds setup which I think is impossible or at the very least, difficult to capture in any other method.

I hope this article given you some peace of mind in case you were unsure regarding the use of micro four thirds to capture wildlife.