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  • Micro Four Thirds system announced

    Big news today! Olympus and Panasonic have jointly announced the development of a Four Thirds based camera platform, Micro Four Thirds, for much smaller and lighter interchangeable lens camera bodies and lenses. They won't be DSLRs, but the sensor size is the same and existing lenses will be usable on the new cameras via an adapter that retains full electronic lens/body communications.

    The official press release is here:

    http://fourthirds-user.com/2008/08/f...em_sibling.php

    I was in Japan in June to be briefed on the new system. I've posted a kind of FAQ on FTU, but here it is reproduced here for you:

    1. Does Micro Four Thirds replace the original Four Thirds? No. Both manufacturers have stated that they will continue to develop and support Four Thirds bodies and lenses.

    2. Is the sensor size smaller? No. The sensor size (image circle) specification is the same as the original Four Thirds spec.

    3. Is the lens mount different? Yes. You can't directly mount Micro FT lenses onto an original FT body or vice-versa. The mount flange - sensor plane distance has been halved. But a spacer adapter will be provided to enable original FT lenses to be used, with full electronic communication, with Micro FT bodies.

    4. If the distance between the lens mount and the sensor has been halved and the sensor size remains the same, where does the reflex mirror go? Well, there won't be a mirror! Micro Four Thirds cameras will have interchangeable lenses, but they won't, technically, be DSLRs (digital single lens reflex).

    5. How much smaller will Micro FT lenses be? Incredibly smaller. The shortening of the mount to sensor distance enables big changes to be made possible in the optical design of these lenses, resulting in smaller and lighter optics. Just compare the sizes of lenses for existing interchangeable lens rangefinder cameras, for example, which also benefit from a closer mount to lens distance. Expect a halving or more in size and weight of some existing examples with comparable lens focal lengths, while maintaining the same aperture brightness.

    6. Will I be able to use Micro FT lenses on an original Four Thirds body? No. The lens will be too far away from the sensor.

    7. If there is no reflex mirror, does that mean Micro Four Thirds cameras must have electronic viewfinders? Basically, yes. Luckily, we can expect a major step forward in EVF technology for still cameras.

    8. Without a reflex mirror, will that mean autofocus must be operated through the slower contrast-detection system, using the main sensor, instead of using the typical faster DSLR phase detection method. As far as I'm aware, yes. However, contrast detection AF technology is being refined for faster performance.

    9. Photokina is coming up at the end of September? Will we see some physical examples of Micro Four Thirds at the show? I can't say, though I feel that the timing of today's press release is significant.

    10. When will we see the first Micro FT products on sale? This information isn't yet available, but what I would say is that it's not a long way off. Micro FT has been under development for longer than you might think.

    So what are your thoughts? It's quite a lot to take in. I personally think it's quite revolutionary...

    Ian
    Founder and editor of:
    Olympus UK E-System User Group (http://e-group.uk.net)
    Four Thirds User (http://fourthirds-user.com)
    Digital Photography Now (http://dpnow.com)
    Olympus camera, lens, and accessory hire (http://e-group.uk.net/hire)

    Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
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  • #2
    Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

    My first thought is - Why? What is the market for these cameras? Not knocking it, just curious.
    Stephen

    A camera takes a picture. A photographer makes a picture

    Fuji X system, + Leica and Bronica film

    My Flickr site

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    • #3
      Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

      I do hope its a success :-) Maybe it aims at the rangefinder die hard ??

      I might have preferred a leica style EVF body to have taken our existing lenses directly, but I guess an adapter tube is acceptable.

      Plus one assumes if the sensor is the same size, then your 11-22 will still be an 11-22 on these new bodies.. so - an interesting development

      Pete
      Look, I'm an old man. I shouldn't be expected to put up with this.


      Pete's photoblog Misleading the public since 2010.

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      • #4
        Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

        Originally posted by StephenL View Post
        My first thought is - Why? What is the market for these cameras? Not knocking it, just curious.
        I've seen prototype lenses and they are massively smaller and lighter than the equivalent FT lens. Which is saying something, considering how relatively small FT lenses are to 135-format SLR lenses.

        The cameras promise to be quieter without a mirror.

        As an EVF finder will be required, there will be more and smarter information on tap in the viewfinder if required and it will be much easier to integrate video shooting modes.

        I think the cameras will relate better to people upgrading from a compact or bridge camera too.

        The two main concerns are AF performance and EVF quality. I have seen through a prototype camera and EVF and it's a big step forward from what we've had so far. AF won't be as fast as DSLRs but I think it will be better than what we have seen so far with bridge cameras.

        Ian
        Founder and editor of:
        Olympus UK E-System User Group (http://e-group.uk.net)
        Four Thirds User (http://fourthirds-user.com)
        Digital Photography Now (http://dpnow.com)
        Olympus camera, lens, and accessory hire (http://e-group.uk.net/hire)

        Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
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        • #5
          Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

          Originally posted by snaarman View Post
          I do hope its a success :-) Maybe it aims at the rangefinder die hard ??

          I might have preferred a leica style EVF body to have taken our existing lenses directly, but I guess an adapter tube is acceptable.

          Plus one assumes if the sensor is the same size, then your 11-22 will still be an 11-22 on these new bodies.. so - an interesting development

          Pete
          Yes, there is no optical compromise to the use of existing FT lenses. The main concern is contrast detect AF performance unless you have one of the lenses already optimised for live view.

          Ian
          Founder and editor of:
          Olympus UK E-System User Group (http://e-group.uk.net)
          Four Thirds User (http://fourthirds-user.com)
          Digital Photography Now (http://dpnow.com)
          Olympus camera, lens, and accessory hire (http://e-group.uk.net/hire)

          Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
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          NEW: My personal BLOG ianburley.com
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          • #6
            Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

            It sounds impressive but I can't help asking 'What's in it for us?' Surely in the long term it isn't economical to run two different sytems in parallel with only limited interchangeability. One is likely to turn out to be more attractive than the other. It remains to be seen which that will be.
            David

            EM1ii, EM10ii

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            • #7
              Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

              Originally posted by Melaka View Post
              It sounds impressive but I can't help asking 'What's in it for us?' Surely in the long term it isn't economical to run two different sytems in parallel with only limited interchangeability. One is likely to turn out to be more attractive than the other. It remains to be seen which that will be.
              This is the big question. I guess that the distinctive appeal of a true DSLR, although probably relatively limited in market terms, will remain. But the market volume for Micro FT is expected to much much greater over the longer term.

              Ian
              Founder and editor of:
              Olympus UK E-System User Group (http://e-group.uk.net)
              Four Thirds User (http://fourthirds-user.com)
              Digital Photography Now (http://dpnow.com)
              Olympus camera, lens, and accessory hire (http://e-group.uk.net/hire)

              Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
              Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
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              NEW: My personal BLOG ianburley.com
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              • #8
                Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                Actually, there is some point in this idea. Before I got this E400 I used a C8080 for a year or two. What a nice camera, I really loved the silence of that beast compared to a DSLR, and if it had had decent high ISO, I would have kept it!

                The lack of moving parts means I could hand hold the 8080 to much longer shutter speeds than the E400. I know that IS solves the hand held problem, but nothing solves the mirror and shutter noise in a quiet location.

                Thus the compact size, quiet operation and the 4/3 adapter do have appeal.

                BTW Oly - try to make the lens adapter free to those who want it please :-)

                P
                Look, I'm an old man. I shouldn't be expected to put up with this.


                Pete's photoblog Misleading the public since 2010.

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                • #9
                  Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                  To my mind Olympus and Panasonic are going after a different market with Micro FT. They are putting in a product group which will appeal to those that have bought bridge cameras and the likes of the Canon G and Panasonic LX series. I would love a smaller lighter camera system with the same quality for my hill walking but I'd still want a true SLR for my other photography.

                  Ian C.
                  Last edited by ianc; 5th August 2008, 06:11 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                    Originally posted by Melaka View Post
                    It sounds impressive but I can't help asking 'What's in it for us?' Surely in the long term it isn't economical to run two different sytems in parallel with only limited interchangeability. One is likely to turn out to be more attractive than the other. It remains to be seen which that will be.
                    Well that's it - does Olympus have the ability, and Matsushista the committment to continue to develop the 4/3 range whilst it launches this new product. One which will inevitably eat into the same market as the smaller 4/3 bodies.

                    The answer would be 'yes' if the top of the range 4/3'rd bodies had recieved the professional/semi-pro acceptance they deserve, it is somewhat more of a speculative maybe given the current market standing.

                    What we need is a demonstration of the committment to the existing 4/3 standard as a high end route, in effect a 'roadmap' showing dates for more lenses and for upgraded bodies.

                    Interesting technical development and maybe a market winner. But the technology is going to have to have made a fundamental leap forward before I embrace 'a wave in front of your face and pray camera' as a replacement for a DSLR.

                    Nick
                    Nick Temple-Fry

                    Medicine as a science ranks somewhere between archaeology and economics.

                    www.theChurchPhotographer.co.uk 90 Churches -- Fairford St Mary's, exceptionally splendid
                    www.temple-fry.co.uk

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                    • #11
                      Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                      Originally posted by Nick Temple-Fry View Post
                      Well that's it - does Olympus have the ability, and Matsushista the committment to continue to develop the 4/3 range whilst it launches this new product. One which will inevitably eat into the same market as the smaller 4/3 bodies.

                      The answer would be 'yes' if the top of the range 4/3'rd bodies had recieved the professional/semi-pro acceptance they deserve, it is somewhat more of a speculative maybe given the current market standing.

                      What we need is a demonstration of the committment to the existing 4/3 standard as a high end route, in effect a 'roadmap' showing dates for more lenses and for upgraded bodies.

                      Interesting technical development and maybe a market winner. But the technology is going to have to have made a fundamental leap forward before I embrace 'a wave in front of your face and pray camera' as a replacement for a DSLR.

                      Nick
                      Firstly, I think it's very important that Olympus and Panasonic do reassure everyone about their commitment to the existing DSLR platform.

                      Secondly, Micro Four Thirds cameras are 'proper' cameras with an eyepiece finder, though the finder will be electronic - and much better than any EVF you've seen in a still camera to date.

                      Ian
                      Founder and editor of:
                      Olympus UK E-System User Group (http://e-group.uk.net)
                      Four Thirds User (http://fourthirds-user.com)
                      Digital Photography Now (http://dpnow.com)
                      Olympus camera, lens, and accessory hire (http://e-group.uk.net/hire)

                      Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
                      Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
                      Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ianburley/
                      NEW: My personal BLOG ianburley.com
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                      • #12
                        Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                        Originally posted by ianc View Post
                        To my mind Olympus and Panasonic are going after a different market with Micro FT. They are putting in a product group which will appeal to those that have bought bridge cameras and the likes of the Canon G and Panasonic LX series. I would love a smaller lighter camera system with the same quality for my hill walking but I'd still want a true SLR.

                        Ian C.
                        I was told that the market that Micro FT is aimed at is a much larger one than DSLR (which only represents 7 percent of the digital camera market).

                        Ian
                        Founder and editor of:
                        Olympus UK E-System User Group (http://e-group.uk.net)
                        Four Thirds User (http://fourthirds-user.com)
                        Digital Photography Now (http://dpnow.com)
                        Olympus camera, lens, and accessory hire (http://e-group.uk.net/hire)

                        Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
                        Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
                        Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ianburley/
                        NEW: My personal BLOG ianburley.com
                        sigpic

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                        • #13
                          Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                          My first thought is - Why? What is the market for these cameras? Not knocking it, just curious.
                          Well my first thought would be that it ties in with the rumours of Leica making a 'full frame' rangefinder body. And if you have never used a rangefinder you either 'get it' or not. I think it would really grab the market by the short and curlies though. It also means Oly and Panasonic are commited to more R&D going into 4/3rds sensors which benefits both micro and normal formats. It also means a truly pocketable 4/3rds quality camera, with interchangeable lenses, even it does turn out to be a P&S concept.

                          Canon and Nikon can only dream of working in this valuable 'small but fully featured camera' market sector given the direction they are now going in, and I still predict that within the next fews years one or both will also join the 4/3rds manufacturer group as part of their arsenal. But the key thing is many serious Canon and Nikon users will adopt the micro 4/3rds as their second camera at the very least, just as many are adopting the E420 as their ideal travel camera today. This cannot help but make the overall 4/3rds concept go from strength to strength.

                          Steve

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                          • #14
                            Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                            Originally posted by Ian View Post
                            I was told that the market that Micro FT is aimed at is a much larger one than DSLR (which only represents 7 percent of the digital camera market).

                            Ian
                            Ian the market will be potentially larger but the characteristics of that market will be very different, it will not be homogeneous. I suspect that it will have quite contradictory challenges in it for a company.

                            This new standard will need to be priced in an attractive way which then questions the lens quality vs price economics curve (especially if this is a series of niche markets). Are Sigma playing?

                            One thing which I haven't seen so far is whether a micro 'non-4/3' system could also be created say by Sony who would have the marketing and brand for these non-dslr customers... beyond it being first to market is there a real advantage to the micro 4/3 system? Sony are pretty serious about eating Nikon's lunch

                            A fascinating series of announcements ahead I feel.

                            Peter
                            Peter (Art Frames)

                            You can see some of my things on Flickr

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                            • #15
                              Re: Micro Four Thirds system announced

                              Now will I be able to use short register manual lenses - from rangefinders... pen F, CV for example - on this camera?
                              Looks like a very interesting move for MFL users and may be a little more affordable than an M8.

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