Micro four-thirds have been around for just over a decade and have gained the respect of amateurs and professional photographers alike.
As each new generation is released, the gap between micro four thirds and professional level DSLR and full-frame cameras has shrunk.
While the smaller sensor does create some limitations, the selection of lenses and the compact nature of the M43 range make them an attractive option for capturing images of creatures going about their business in their native habitat.
The Advantages of M43 for Wildlife Photography
No camera provides the perfect solution, but a few standout M43 models come close.
Here’s an overview detailing the advantages of micro four thirds when you’re roughing it out in the field and a couple of models you should consider for your next wildlife shoot.
M43 Gives You Twice the Zoom
The smaller sensor size creates a 2x crop factor, which effectively means a micro four-thirds camera helps you get closer to your subject.
A 100-300mm lens on an M43 creates the equivalent of a 200-600mm on a full-frame or DSLR. In short, you get double the focal length without having to increase the size and weight of your gear.
Fast Shutter Speeds
High shutter speeds have made an essential contribution to the value of the M43 systems out in the wild.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1X is an excellent example of an M43 camera that almost seems like it was created with the wildlife photographer in mind.
The wings of a hummingbird will be frozen in time, and water droplets sparkle like a shower of diamonds when caught in the 1/8000th of a second shutter speed of the E-M1X.
If the X is out of your price range, the OM-D E-M1 MK II can have the same shutter speeds and other functions, at around half the price.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 MK II has a robust body packed with powerful tech any wildlife photographer would appreciate.
One feature of note is the tracking autofocus capable of 15 FPS using a mechanical shutter and 60 FPS using the electronic shutter.
Those are good stats on their own, but when you consider that each of those 60 frames is a full RAW image, it’s even more impressive.
The buffer limit does peak at 84 frames when the camera starts to collect images at a slower rate, but 84 frames will still give you plenty of material to work with when you’re back at the studio.
Tons of AF Points
You will love the 121 all cross-type focus points of both models when it comes to keeping your quarry in the frame and in focus.
Olympus spent a good deal of time designing what may be the perfect grip, which is more important than you might realize when trying to take advantage of every opportunity while out in the wilderness.
If you are trudging around the forest, you have most likely left the tripod in the car to save on weight. No tripod means you will be operating the camera while holding it in your hand for extended lengths of time.
A comfortable grip is essential for drawn-out photography sessions, and the OM-D E-M1X delivers.
The E-M1X is a pound heavier than the E-M1 Mark II, but you will be hard-pressed to tell the difference because of the superb grip design.
Not only is the camera easy to hold all day, but more innovations in the layout of controls make operating the camera a lot more intuitive.
The AF selector joystick has been placed in not one but two locations on the body. Whether you are shooting vertically or horizontally, your thumb will be in the same position regardless of orientation.
This is significant because it’s all too easy to forget where everything is when you’re intensely focused on your subject.
When you’re in a seat of the pants moment, you can quickly and accurately relocate your focus points without adjusting to the camera’s orientation.
The MK II and the X share the same sensor, but the X has a bit of a one-up on the MK II by adding an additional processor to speed up image processing and every other function on the camera.
An extra processor speeds up and improves AF, tracking improves, and even low-light performance gets a bump with the extra computational grunt incorporated into the X.
The MK II is still a great camera, but the enhancements present in the X will spoil you if you have the budget for it.
A Full Line-up of Lenses
There is now no shortage of lenses available for M43 cameras, making them an even more compelling option for wildlife photography.
For instance, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH. POWER OIS lens is a stabilized lens that can be matched with any M43 camera.
When you regard the crop factor, you are essentially getting the equivalent of a 200-800mm focal length of a 35mm, and for a lot less outlay.
You will appreciate the Leica DG’s versatility when out in the field. Close focus is at just under 4.5 feet, and at 2 pounds, you will have no trouble working with this lens for hours on end.
If you are an avid photographer of our avian friends, another M43 lens you will enjoy is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. It’s lightweight, very sharp, and fast.
At f/2.8, you will still be able to capture captivating images, even in low-light conditions. A small, fast, and lightweight lens are essential to keeping fast-moving birds in the frame, and this lens gives you all that and more.
Micro four-thirds has matured to the point that even the fastest of wildlife will not be able to escape your lens.
The OMD E-M1 MK II and the OMD EM-1X are standout performers when working with wildlife. Along with these two great cameras is the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 which is on par with the EM-1 MK II.
Both feature robust weatherproof bodies, comfortable, intuitive designs, speed, and excellent autofocus. The budget may be a concern, and it’s always nice to have the cream of the crop.
However, it’s also good to know that whichever model you choose, you’ll be coming home with more than a few outstanding images to add to your portfolio.