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Micro Four Thirds Discuss the newly announced Micro Four Thirds addition to the Four Thirds system family here.

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Old 25th August 2008
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Zuiko Zuiko is offline
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Micro Four Thirds Their Vision, Our Future

Recently my 9 year old daughter took a surprisingly good selection of photographs on an old Canon compact handed down from me. Keen to encourage her, I showed her my old E500 (I've since acquired an E510 and E3 in quick succession) and told her she can have it as soon as her little hands are big enough to hold it properly. Naturally, she wanted to play with it straight away and, as she clumsily lifted the enormous (by her standards) camera to her eye I noticed that she instinctively tried to view on the LCD screen. She was quite disappointed when I told her that this particular model doesn't have live view! As far as she is concerned live view is what she wants and the viewfinder could be dispensed with altogether.

This led me to think about the new m4/3 format. All the reservations expressed on this forum are from existing DSLR users accustomed to using a viewfinder probably 90% of the time in most cases, despite the advent of live view. Now, when my daughter and her generation get their first DSLRs they will not just expect live view, they will take it for granted. And, as things stand, they are going to be pretty disappointed because the first thing they will notice is that live view on a DSLR is not the same as they are familiar with on a compact.

Enter Micro Four Thirds. This new standard promises to be the springboard that unleashes the full potential of live view and act as the catalyst for vast improvements in current technology. As well as improvements to match the characteristics of live view in a compact we can expect better daylight viewing capability to the point where the viewfinder, whether optical or electronic, becomes all but redundant. Without the slapping mirror we can look forward to significantly faster frame rates, lower hand holdable shutter speeds even with IS and top of the range camcorder video quality.

Imagine - a minute, lightweight camera that replaces the need for a separate DSLR, compact AND video cam!

But does the market it will be aimed at require interchangeable lenses?

Most emphatically, Yes! A big plus point over current bridge cameras will be not only a massive gain in quality due to the larger sensor (much is made about the 4/3 sensor being small, but in reality it is not significantly smaller than the APS-C sized sensor used in the vast majority of DSLRs) but the added flexibility to tailor the lens fitted to the occasion. Imagine, you are going to a safari park specifically to photograph the animals. Obviously you will want a long range zoom fitted to the camera most of the time. The next day you are going to the coast with the family and, although much of the day will be spent playing with your children on the beach you still hope to find time to wander around the old fishermen's huts and beached boats at the other end of the bay. For this you want a high quality, but pocketable camera so off comes the tele-zoom and on goes an ultra compact short range zoom from the new M4/3 stable or the pancake 25mm prime. Or, hopefully, one of several other fast, diminutive primes that Olympus should be considering to realize the full potential of the new system!

Sounds great, but will the potential market be big enough to make it a success?

Undoubtedly yes! Of course, many of the current dyed-in-the-wool DSLR users, a significant number of whom used film in pre-digital days, will prefer to remain part of the 7% of camera buyers who at present choose a DSLR. The other 93% will be fair game! Many compact and bridge camera owners will be attracted to the new system with its added flexibility and extra quality. But significantly it will also appeal to the next generation of togs, like my daughter. She is going to want a DSLR sooner rather than later (she wants one now!) and so will her peers. And they will see the undeniable and decisive advantages of a truly miniature fully specified system with high quality video capability and viewing technology appropriate to the Digital Age. They will leave the current crop of Canons and Nikons to the dinosaurs! Without doubt, if a m4/3 body and lens combination was available now I would be under intense pressure to buy one!

The other significant group to whom the new system may very well appeal is women. At the Kensal Green meet a couple of weeks ago we had an interesting conversation over breakfast (we had to pass the time somehow whilst waiting for Andy's bacon sandwich) about why so few women are serious photographers when often they have a more creative eye than men and in theory would be better suited to the hobby. Amongst the reasons we came up with was that women see photography more as technology rather than art and look upon serious cameras as toys for boys, or male jewellery. If that is the case then maybe a less ostentatious, smaller, lighter, simple and user-friendly interchangeable lens camera system with the characteristics and quality of a DSLR but without the complicated, noisy and space wasting mechanics of a mirror box might just win them over.

I've already mentioned my daughter; the other person in my family who is currently becoming increasingly interested in photography is my wife, Debbie. She loves using my E510 but, light and compact though it is, doesn't always want the bother of carrying it around. If m4/3 can significantly reduce the proportions she will certainly want one too. In me, Olympus have already captured the existing market in our household. With m4/3 they could overnight create a whole new market within that household, double the size of the existing one!

So to me the future looks bright – the future looks Olympus.


Here's a picture taken by my 9 year old daughter, a promising talent representing a whole new potential market for m4/3.




And here's a picture taken by my wife, herself a talented artist and representing another whole new potential market for m4/3!


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Old 25th August 2008
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Thumbs up Re: Micro Four Thirds Their Vision, Our Future

John,

All credit to you on this "article". I too see real potential in the MFT system that will be quite special. One only has to look at the way the younger generation uses communication technology in ways so different to that of their parents.

If the MTF system can also communicate with wireless technology to devices such as IPod Touch, etc, or have an attachment to provide such, the capabilities again appeal to the new market consumers.

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Old 26th August 2008
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Re: Micro Four Thirds Their Vision, Our Future

Well, I owning an E3 and an E500, I am a potential buyer of a micro camera. It's the camera I've been waiting for to use as a carry-around.

Another thing is that this might be the solution that opens the floodgates for compact users into the Oly DSLR market. Imagine the top quality of the Micro, and when you've already got the setup with lenses etc., when you want to move on, you'll know where to go...
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Old 26th August 2008
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Re: Micro Four Thirds Their Vision, Our Future

If it were small (and a clip on optical viewfinder were available) I'd seriously think about getting one to do the job my Ricoh GRD2 and GR1s currently do.

I agree that a lot of people instinctively hold the camera at arms length to view the lcd screen (I do the opposite and sometimes press the lcd of the Ricoh against my nose!). But arms length is a rubbish way to hold a camera and having to focus your eye on something a few inches away whilst the real subject is several feet away is not the best way of working. Hopefully electronic viewfinders will get better, but in the meantime I'd go for a clip-on one.
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Old 26th August 2008
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Thumbs up Re: Micro Four Thirds Their Vision, Our Future

I think the original post hit the nail on the head here. It's about new users who don't already have, or possibly even have knowledge and experience of, a dSLR.

A case in point. My son likes to take photographs. I let him loose with a compact whenever possible. He uses a viewfinder "because that's how Daddy does it". But two interesting things happened recently...

On my desk is my first ever SLR, a Ricoh KR10, purchased in 1981. To a six year old boy, this is an antique! He started taking pictures with it. His face filled with a look of total bemusement when he tried to look at what he had taken! To him, of course it should have a screen to view your images!

The second incident was when he saw a roll of black and white negatives drying in the bathroom. He asked what it was, and explained to him about film, how it was exposed, developed and then made into prints. More bemusement, and this time incredible disbelief that such a process could have ever existed. "No it isn't" were his final words as he walked of to assume the role of a Jedi Master overthrowing the evil Empire.

We may be presently uncomfortable with rear screens to compose, but to a new generation, that is what they have grown up with. Equally, to that same generation, it isn't good until it has been made even smaller, and crammed with technology.
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Old 26th August 2008
Makonde
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Re: Micro Four Thirds Their Vision, Our Future

I don't mind working with Live View except that:
- auto focusing is slower
- it's a pain in sunlight
- it's harder to brace your hold of the camera (and the heavier and clunkier the camera, the more important that is)

But for composing, I think it has the edge over viewfinders.

Vibration/mirror shock and weight / size are problems for DSLRs and 4/3 hasn't been much of the answer - cameras might be a bit smaller but some of those lenses are heavy, heavy....

It's always about compromises and if a micro 4/3 camera really turns out to be very much lighter and more portable, with good dustbusting, smaller lighter lenses of just as good quality (and cheaper) and an improved sensor, I'm sure it will be a success. Otherwise... there's a lot to be said for the very small good quality compacts that fit easily into a small pocket. They're easy to hold still, take good quality images and that's where my youngsters are going. You can bang on about 'creative' control but maybe the greatest freedom in creating photos is to have an unobtrusive camera with you at all times ready to click at a second's notice.... no fiddling around.
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