I was amused to see Leica announce recently that they would not be issuing any micro four-thirds lenses. In a recent Popsci blog, Leica’s VP marketing is quoted as saying:

โ€œOne reason why we’ve decided not to move into Micro Four Thirds is that we have looked at the sensor size and realized that it cannot produce the image quality that we need. Therefore we decided to stick with the full format in addition to APS-C. It’s all about the ratios”

Interesting. Really? So why is Leica selling rebranded Panasonic cameras at the bottom end?

So let’s see what a real micro four thirds Panasonic, my new GF-1 with fixed 20mm lens, can do against the top of the line Canon, the 1Ds Mark III with a prime 50mm lens. Crazy comparison, eh? Who’d be crazy enough to shoot the same object with a highest-end SLR versus a point and shoot?


I just shot my most patient model in the studio, lit by a couple of Bowens strobes.

  • Both cameras set to manual, 100 ISO, f/9, 1/125th second (as measured with the light meter). One shot focus, focus point on the eye.
  • 1Ds Mark III: 50mm f/1.4 lens on this full-frame 23 Mpixel camera
  • The 12 Mpixel GF1 was fitted with a 20mm f/1.7 lens. Because the sensor is four times smaller than a negative, this is equivalent to 40mm “real” length.

So the shots:

Full shot, Canon:

Canon 1Ds Mark III, 50mm f/1.4 lens

Canon 1Ds Mark III, 50mm f/1.4 lens

Full shot: Panasonic:

Panasonic GF1, 20mm f/1.7 lens

Detail, Canon:

Canon 1Ds Mark III, 50mm f/1.4 lens (detail)

Canon 1Ds Mark III, 50mm f/1.4 lens (detail)

Detail, Panasonic:

Panasonic GF1, 20mm f/1.7 lens (detail)

Panasonic GF1, 20mm f/1.7 lens (detail)

In all cases, click to see a larger picture.

These were RAW images that have been read into Lightroom and edited slightly for white balance and exposure. No sharpening or noise reduction was done.

What does this show me? Yes, I suppose at higher ISOs I’ll see more of a difference, but at these low ISO settings, any megapixel count over ten is “enough”, and the difference in the case of such a controlled shot is minimal.

Certainly, this does not in my opinion warrant the comments by Leica.

While I am not about to hang up my DSLRs, I am impressed by the small camera’s ability to produce professional work.

So to Uncle Fred (and you are not Uncle Fred, or you would not be reading this):

  • It’s not about the equipment;
  • It’s about the picture.

There! Let’s start thinking more about the image than about how we make it.

4 thoughts on “Quality

  1. You couldve brushed her hair a little… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ok I’m amazed. Not only did the poppers work on the GF1 the quality of the images are almost identical.

    • Hey, what can I say: I like it rough. The hair.

      Seriously: we do sometimes obsess a bit too much about quality. Me included of course. Usually, technical quality is essential.

      But the work of, say, Nan Goldin, Judy Linn, Robert Mapplethorpe, etc does not reply on more “sharpness” than I can get from a Micro Four Thirds camera like the GF1.

      In fact this stuff here is better than most 35mm film work ever was.

      Thanks to Dave Honl for opening my eyes to this recently in Vegas. He has a Leica – obviously a very good camera, better than mine, but he made me realise that we can do serious, good work with a small camera too.

  2. The GF1 looks impressive, especially with its fast pancake lens and its small size. I find that I am shooting more and more with my iPhone than my D90, simply because my iPhone is usually with me and not so bulky to carry around. I could see myself actually bringing a GF1 to more places, maybe everyday. Do you know if there are any decent/fast zoom lenses for the GF1? This might help sway me in getting one some day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *