Micro Four Thirds and wedding photography

There is a perception that the use of large DSLR cameras with gargantuan lenses equals professional wedding photography; I beg to differ. I have been shooting weddings for several years using Micro Four Thirds exclusively and have found it to be sufficient in delivering results. In fact, there are distinct benefits in using the Micro Four Thirds system for wedding photography, which I will discuss in this article.

I’ve used varying combinations of OM-D cameras and lenses, with my current setup being: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M10 Mark II with M.Zuiko lenses 12-40mm F2.8, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses. I also use an external flash when necessary. Typically, wedding photographers require super fast autofocus to capture fleeting moments, comfortable handling for all day shooting and running around, and most importantly good, high quality image output. This basically means clean high ISO images, sufficient dynamic range is harsh light and the ability to render shallow depths of field for effective subject isolation. Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera systems have come a long way, and have improved to a point where they can adequately fulfill all these needs.

This is not a DSLR vs Micro Four Thirds article. My intention is to discuss the viability and advantages of using Micro Four Thirds in a professional photography environment, which makes some comparisons with DSLRs unavoidable. The DSLR has, after all, been the benchmark for any professional related work until now.

The biggest reason why I believe Micro Four Thirds is right for wedding shoots is the small form factor and light-weight setup. Any OM-D camera and a 12-40mm lens can satisfy most of the needs for wedding day coverage. Supplementing this with the 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 for “bokeh” shots or difficult low light situations doesn’t add much to the overall weight of the whole system either. In comparison to any professional grade full frame body with a 24-70mm lens mounted, Micro Four Thirds feels like a feather in the hand, letting you move around much easier and quicker. There’s no neck pain, shoulder pains or strains on the wrists at the end of the day to worry about.

An equally important factor to consider when picking equipment for wedding shoots is the autofocus performance. Crucial moments happen in fractions of a second and a responsive camera is necessary to capture those fleeting moments. After all, that is what wedding photography is all about, documenting the beautiful memories and emotions that include kisses, hugs and plenty of other you-blink-and-you-miss-it shots. While we can argue for days on which camera has the fastest autofocus, I’ve found the Micro Four Thirds system (since the Olympus E-M5) to be fast and reliable enough for my wedding shoots. I must admit that I do not rely on continuous AF, using single AF mode instead, but the AF is fast enough to capture each shot successfully.

Image quality may be a huge factor deterring many from using Micro Four Thirds for professional shoots, as full frame or APS-C sensor bodies promise cleaner high ISOs and better dynamic range. While I do not deny that larger sensors have an edge in image quality, when it comes to weddings, I’ve never once had a situation where I needed more dynamic range or wish the camera had better high ISO handling. By shooting in RAW, plenty of detail can be recovered from both highlight and shadow regions, provided the image was properly exposed at time of capture. To counter the use of high ISO, the F1.8 prime lenses come in very handy. In fact, the 45mm F1.8 lens can do a lot of wonders in many wedding scenarios. I rarely find myself going above ISO1600 shooting at F1.8, and I particularly love how sharp these prime lenses are even shooting wide open at F1.8.

Another reason many favor DSLR or larger sized sensor mirrorless cameras is the ability to create razor thin depth of field. Effective subject isolation by blurring the background into nothingness is an important tool when it comes to wedding portraits, and I also utilize this in my own work. If shallow depth of field is your priority and you have no other considerations in your wedding photography, I agree that Micro Four Thirds may be a poor choice for you. However, with the help of the Olympus 75mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8, I was able to achieve the stereotypical “bokeh” look in my shots. The newer F1.2 lenses from Olympus and Panasonic can help achieve this effect too. As shown in a few shots above, I have no issues getting these bokeh-licious portrait shots.

Personally, I treasure a camera that can produce excellent straight out of camera JPEG files. I shoot in both RAW + JPEG all the time for weddings, and for my final delivery of photographs I process everything from RAW files. On the actual day itself however, especially with the local Malaysian Chinese weddings here, it is a common practice to compile a photo-slideshow of the wedding ceremony to be shown on the same evening during the dinner reception. Having useable, high quality JPEG images is mission critical here, and can help save an immense amount of time in the photo slideshow creation process.

Whether it is on the actual day of the wedding ceremony, or a pre-wedding portraiture shoot, I’ve used the Micro Four Thirds system and my clients have been happy with the results. The bigger is better mentality might not necessarily work out to be the best mantra in this situation.

I know some of you beautiful readers are wedding photographers, using various camera systems. Please share your opinion and experience on shooting weddings – I certainly would love to hear from you.

 __________________

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Images and content copyright Robin Wong 2017 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. laragrauerphotography says:

    I love this blog. I enjoyed reading and learned a thing or two about wedding photography.

  2. Lovely work Robin! I have been shooting weddings and events under all kinds of circumstances and never used anything but (Micro) Four Thirds gear. So far, my clients have always been super happy with the results, and now that I know my camera and lenses inside and out, I rarely struggle with the circumstances, low light being the only challenge that comes up occasionally.

    You can find my work here: http://www.underthefog.com/

    I always use my E-M1 and I used to lug my E5 around as a (hardly used) second body, but luckily now I opt for the E-m10 Mark II as a backup, which is a lot easier to carry. It kind of defeats the purpose of going mirrorless for size reasons, but I still occasionally rent the old Four-Thirds 35-100mm F2 for weddings because it’s just such a wonderful lens. Currently I shoot almost the entire wedding with the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 lens, and I look forward to using the new Olympus f1.2 lenses soon as well. Other gear I regularly bring and use is an external flash, the old Four-Thirds 12-60mm f2.8, the MFT 45mm f1.8, and the Panasonic 25mm f1.4. Occasionally I rent a 7-14mm f2.8 too, to capture the venue.

  3. I would be happy about these pictures to at my wedding 😉 I use mft for weddings to though not only mft bodys, but i could if i wanted. nice photos!

  4. While the MFT may be good enough, the size advantage is disappeared. An Olympus E-M1 with 25mmF1.2 is bigger than A7RII with 55mmF1.8 or X-T2 with 35mmF1.4, while the depths of field from these three camera/lens combos are similar.

    • Robin Wong says:

      But why are we comparing depth of field again? If depth of field is your main consideration, obviously Micro Four Thirds is not the choice for you. The system offers so much more, which I have spent the entire article explaining. If those advantages do not work for you, you do not have to use Micro Four Thirds. There is nothing wrong using any other systems that work for you.

  5. I shoot iphone x and samsung note 8s for weddings. People love it.

  6. I’ve been shooting weddings since 2013 using exclusively micro four thirds (OMD EM5) and a bevy of Olympus and Panasonic lenses as well, and I find that they are sufficient for what I do. Until only very recently, I have included in my equipment, the Fuji XT1 (35mm 1.4) and even the XA1 (16mm 1.4) because of the colors they produce. The OMD somehow cannot seem to produce the same gorgeous colors these Fuji cameras can make, even when shooting Raw with the OMD.

    I love micro four thirds but I find it burdensome and time-consuming to have to edit everything in Lightroom in order to match the wonderful colors the Fuji cameras produce Straight out of Camera. I just use jpegs for my Fujis and they have replaced my OMD when it comes to group shots. For composed shots on the other hand I still rely on the OMD with the Noctricon. I also keep my 75mm for those candid shots. What I like about the OMD and micro four thirds in general is their sharpness and the assurance I feel when using them.. and in good light, I swear the OMD beats the Fuji XT1. However indoors, I put my OMD away and use the Fujis exclusively.

  7. Regarding MFT I think we are at the same turning point as with the 35mm film format and Leica. I remember even in the 70ties a “decent” professional had either a twin-lens Rollei or a SLR Hasselblad using 6x6cm film-rolls. In 1974 I did a job for a glossy catalogue, the printers insisted on me taking the pics on 6x6cm. I only had my Leica, so I presented my first pics on 35mm. They raised their eyebrows, I insisted they first had a look at the quality. They then told me normally 6×6 was required, however my slides were of exceptional quality and I could proceed in this way.

    • Robin Wong says:

      I think it is about general perception, and it is difficult to fight the usual “DLSR is professional” norm for wedding photographers. I am fortunate to have clients who like and trust my work first, before judging the equipment I was using.

  8. Thank you so much for this article Robin! It’s so refreshing, to hear a Professional saying, that mft is enough (can be enough). I am before the decision between EM-1 II and G9 for now (I know, both of them will make me happy, so it’s a tough choice). Greetings!

    • Robin Wong says:

      I think it won’t go wrong with whichever choice. Well, do you have more Olympus lenses? Makes sense to couple Olympus lenses on Olympus cameras, likewise for Panasonic!

      • Thanks for your reply. It’s the start in a whole new system for me… but i like the Olympus-Pro-Lenses, well, i heard good things about them 🙂

  9. Dear Robin!
    I could not agree more with your opinion that m43 is more than mature and enough for shooting weddings. I myself shot the wedding of my son this summer exclusively with the EM1.2 and mainly the 2.8/12-40 and the 2.8/40-150, for some macro shots of the rings and wedding cake I used the excellent 2.8/60. All were very happy with the results and the big advantage of YSIWYG from the excellent EVF of the EM1.2 was critical in achieving these quality shots immediately – both WRT perfect exposure but also perfect placement of DOF. While the lenses I used were more than enough for photographing this wedding, I will definitely add the 1.2/45 PRO, because I want to use it as a general purpose portrait lens – I am so used to Leica Summicron 2/90 ASPH on the M and this lens for me is in the same league.
    Allow me to mention that I also switched completely to m43 some months ago from FF and APSC (I do intentionally not mention he brands) as I am confident that I can easily cover all photograhic subjects with the m43 gear I have, including wildlife with the stunning 4/300 PRO ….
    Best regards
    Peter

    • Robin Wong says:

      Hey Peter, glad to know that you have made the switch, and found that Micro Four Thirds works well for your photography needs. While I cannot confidently say Micro Four Thirds can do everything, but for wedding photography it is more than adequate, and I have many happy clients to prove that.
      You have got the best lenses to work with, and I am sure the results are great. Good to also know you were coming from FF and APSC cameras.

  10. Hey Robin, they’re wonderful images. I too use OMD EM1 and EM5 both MKII and using the 17mm and 45mm F1.8 lenses only recently did my first wedding shoot, documentary style, no traditional photos and it was wonderful. I had the FL600 flash on my belt which I needed for 3 or 4 photos outside (dark December evening). One camera always in hand while the other was slung over my shoulder, no camera bag, I could get in amongst the crowd and get some really intimate shots.
    Question for you, the penultimate group shot of the girls is exposed perfectly, did you spot meter and/or use flash to counter the harsh window light? It looks very natural so I’d be surprised if you had used flash.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Wow, you did not even carry a camera bag with you, that is a next level achievement using Micro Four Thirds!
      For that group shot of the Bride and the girls, yes, flash was used to counter the harsh back light. Hah, I supposed a good use of Flash is to blend in with available light, and to make it look as natural as possible.

  11. Hi Robin, I shoot events as a hobby, for example my friends weddings, christenings etc. I find that the main advantage of m43 is that I am invisible when I shoot during the event and I can capture more spontaneous moments. When I used bigger cameras people tend to freeze and use their ‘fake smile’. With m43 small cameras and small prime lenses I am almost invisible to most of the people and I manage to capture much better moments.
    I also shoot events for my news portal and the use of silent shutter (especially in theaters) also makes me invisible…

    • Robin Wong says:

      That was the big advantage I talked about, to be able to move around easily and quickly, because of minimal setup, less and lighter to carry around cameras/lenses! And people are more comfortable looking into smaller cameras too.

  12. Good post. I was talking to a wedding photographer about similar topics yesterday. He still relies on his full frames for low light shooting at weddings, but I’ve seen plenty of wedding photographers switch to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. Not familiar with the Micro4/3, but I still enjoyed reading your thoughts on their suitability for weddings.

    • Robin Wong says:

      I think Micro Four Thirds system has come a long way, and they should be able to do well, if the photographer knows what he is doing.

  13. Hi Robin, I was much impressed by your work you did with the Olympus system and I was a great fan of the Robin Wong Website. Inspired by your pictures I bought a small PEN and later OMD EM5 MK2 as well EM 10 and some EM 10 MK2. Now we shot mostly with the Olympus System and really like it. Just for wide angel shots I still use my Canon with the 16-35mm but this just because I cannot afford buying Oly’s 7-14mm right now 🙂
    https://www.weddingphoto-riess.com/wedding-photography-mit-olympus-omd-kameras-mft/

    • Robin Wong says:

      Hi Thomas, thanks for following me and the visits to my blog. Appreciate that a lot.
      Glad that you have found the wonders of Micro Four Thirds and they served you well!

  14. Dear Robin, beautiful photographs, congratulation!
    It is now nine months since I have bought an E-M1.2 and a few lenses. First, I thought I would keep some of my DSLR equipment as a back-up for very difficult light situations. In the meantime I have gotten rid of all of it.
    I haven’t done a wedding with the E-M1.2 yet, but a couple of weeks ago I did a 60th birthday evening in extreme, low light situations. I detest using a flash, and therefore I was mostly using my 25/1.8 and 75/1.8 lenses.
    With the result of my photographs everyone involved is truly happy with; the foci are on spot with excellent rendering of the atmosphere. Some of the shots were taken at 6400 ISO – you would hardly notice it. Taken with a tiny camera nobody took really notice of. And you know what? The 75/1.8 is a real gem . . . .

    • Thanks! Indeed, for super low light conditions, the F1.8 are real live savers. And you needed to use ISO6400? That must have been super dim. I am sure the E-M1 Mark II delivered, and in those circumstances, moments are more important than critical image quality! Get the shot, get them in focus and capture the moment, that is all that matters.

      • Yes, the room was super dim indeed. When I saw it first I thought I would faint. Many shots I took at ISO 1600, in some dull corners I had to go as low as 6400. I would not go lower than 1/30 sec. because of the motion of the objects.

  15. Excellent work, Robin. When I was doing event work professionally, I used Nikon FF, both film and digital, and Leica M bodies when silent was necessary.

    If I were doing the same work now, I would be happy to go all µ4/3rds with the lenses you mention, and all of which I own and have used extensively. I do not think the new ƒ1.2 lenses are necessary (though they are lovely), and they are quite a bit heavier and larger as well. The lenses you mention fit my two favourite bodies perfectly (Panny GX85 and GX8). And I agree completely that µ4/3rds requires more accurate exposure for optimum results; the zebra patterns set to 105% (GX8) work perfectly for this.

    • Thanks for the kind words. Indeed, newer technology improvements (what you see is what you get, better and more reliable autofocus) have helped shooting events/weddings so much, that we can focus on the subject and the moments.

  16. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Underlying this, Robin, is the old adage – it’s not the camera that takes the photo, it’s the person holding it.

    I wasn’t altogether happy with my micro 4/3, because of noise in low light. That has no relevance to someone else’s cam of course. So I switched to a Canon PowerShot with a 1″ sensor – great lens, a bit low on pixel count (for the pixel feeding frenzy) – and a Nikon D7200. They’re my cams of choice for candid work, and particularly handy for weddings. Of course I’m speaking as an amateur, not a pro, and different considerations apply – I only shoot weddings of family & friends, and they invariably have a pro there – but they usually say very nice things about my photos, too. 🙂

    I don’t take my FF to other people’s weddings. While it might take “better” photos, it’s large (especially with one of the Otus lenses hanging off the front) and its appearance would be intrusive. I simply don’t think I should behave like that at someone else’s festival, especially taking into account they already have a pro there anyway. (Street photography teaches better behaviour 🙂 )

    • You are right when you decide to put the camera aside when attending a wedding, most people just do not get that! Too many photographers who wanted to get that few perfect photographs shoving their huge cameras as close as possible, making it so difficult for the official photographers to do their job.

  17. Kenneth Scholz says:

    I’ve been considering a micro 4/3 for spontaneous family celebrations and social situations with similar demands and it’s nice to hear the Olympus is suitable. On the whole, though, I feel it comes down to using a camera with which one is familiar – the semi-professional photographer at our wedding (years ago) used a small format sheet film camera (possibly 2-1/4 x 3-1/4in.) with large bag of preloaded magazines, took about 150 shots, worked quickly and delivered fine images.

    • Wow, that must have been really challenging, shooting film and still deliver great images. I’d stay with digital for the safer side of things!

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