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Old 05-08-2008, 08:16   #1
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'Micro Four Thirds' announced - Compact DSLRs on the way!

Olympus and Panasonic have just announced a new mirrorless format and lens mount based on the Four Thirds standard. Dubbed Micro Four Thirds System, the enhanced standard uses the same 18 x 13.5-mm sensor but promises 50% slimmer cameras due to the removal of the mirror box. This also means smaller lenses (while remaining compatible with existing Four Third lenses with an adapter) due to a new reduced lens mount which is now 6-mm smaller. With the mirror box gone, Micro Four Third cameras will lose the optical viewfinder so you'll have to frame up your subjects using a Live View LCD or an external viewfinder.

From dpreview:

Quote:
Micro Four Thirds facts and features
Same Four Thirds sensor size (18 x 13.5 mm)
Flange back distance half that of Four Thirds (20 versus 40 mm)
Lens mount diameter 6 mm smaller (44 versus 50 mm)
Contrast Detect AF is implied (passive would require an external sensor)
Lens to body electrical contact points up to 11 from 9
Lenses of same focal length and maximum aperture considerably smaller than Four Thirds
Enables slim and compact lens-interchangeable digital cameras
Lack of mirror well necessitate a high quality EVF (or an EVF/Viewfinder-less design)
Current Four Thirds lenses can be used with an adapter
Enables seamless switching between still and movie shooting
Quote:
This is without doubt the most exciting digital photography announcement this year. It's fair to say that this "extension / addition" to the Four Thirds standard is finally able to deliver on the original promise of that format; considerably smaller and lighter lenses and bodies. Olympus are however keen to stress that this in no way replaces Four Thirds which will continue with new Four Thirds bodies and lenses in the future.
Click through to dpreview to see loads of schematic diagrams.
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Old 05-08-2008, 08:17   #2
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Here's the official press release.

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Tokyo, 5 August 2008, Olympus Imaging Corporation (Olympus Imaging) and Matsu****a Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic) today announced joint development of technologies and devices for the "Micro Four Thirds System standard," a new standard that extends the benefits of the Four Thirds System standard for interchangeable lens type digital camera systems by enabling dramatic reductions in size and weight. Under the terms of an agreement between the two companies, they will work jointly toward commercial production of significantly lighter and more compact interchangeable lens type digital camera systems.

The global market for interchangeable lens type digital SLR cameras is growing steadily, but still only accounts for a 7 percent share of the total digital camera market. Considering the much larger share held by interchangeable lens type SLR camera systems when film was the dominant imaging medium, it seems that there is still ample room for sales growth in the category. But compact digital cameras continue to offer an expanding range of features and performance, and market surveys indicate that customers choose compact models because they find digital SLR cameras to be "big, heavy, and difficult to operate."

Recognizing this market trend, Olympus Imaging and Panasonic have introduced products based on the Four Thirds System standard, and have led the industry in bringing features such as Live View and contrast-detection autofocusing systems to interchangeable lens type digital camera systems.
Now, Olympus Imaging and Panasonic are expanding the potential of the Four Thirds System standard even further, enabling the development of radically more compact and lightweight interchangeable lens type digital camera systems based on the Micro Four Thirds System standard. Together with the existing range of Four Thirds System products, the new range of Micro Four Thirds System products will enable customers to enjoy true interchangeable lens type digital camera system performance.

When compared to the Four Thirds System standard, the primary distinguishing characteristics of the Micro Four Thirds System standard are:
Approximately 50% shorter flangeback distance (mount-to-sensor distance)
6mm smaller lens mount outer diameter
Electrical contacts in mount increased from 9 to 11

* Image sensor diagonal dimensions are the same for both Four Thirds System and Micro Four Thirds System standards.

The Micro Four Thirds System enables users to enjoy the high image quality benefits of the Four Thirds System's 4/3-type image sensor in a much more compact camera body, and also take advantage of significantly more compact lenses, particularly in the wide-angle and high-power zoom range. The Four Thirds System offers compact, lightweight performance, and the new Micro Four Thirds System will take this even further by making it possible to develop ultra-compact interchangeable lens type digital camera systems unlike anything seen before. The new Micro Four Thirds System also incorporates a greater number of lens-mount electrical contacts, enabling support for new features and increased system functionality in the future.
In addition, users will be able to mount their existing Four Thirds System lenses on Micro Four Thirds System bodies via an adapter.

Moving forward, Olympus Imaging and Panasonic will jointly develop relevant technologies and devices for both Four Thirds System and Micro Four Thirds System standards, and will develop and introduce standards-compliant products in accordance with their respective business strategies.

While continuing to develop Four Thirds System interchangeable lens type digital camera system products, Olympus Imaging will also develop a range of Micro Four Thirds System lenses and accessories, and Micro Four Thirds System camera bodies that are even smaller and slimmer than the light, compact, and widely acclaimed Olympus E-410 and E420.

While continuing to develop Four Thirds System interchangeable lens type digital camera system products, Panasonic will also develop a new generation of compact, lightweight, interchangeable lens type digital camera system products, including ultra-portable camera bodies, interchangeable lenses, and related system accessories.

About the Four Thirds System Standard

The Four Thirds System standard defines design and development standards for interchangeable lens type digital camera systems that fully realize the performance potential of digital technology. Four Thirds System cameras utilize a 4/3-type image sensor that delivers the high image quality expected of interchangeable lens type digital camera systems in a form factor that assures outstanding mobility. The Four Thirds System standard is an open standard that enables bodies and lenses produced by participating manufacturers to exchange information and be used interchangeably with one another.
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Old 05-08-2008, 08:34   #3
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Hope someone uses this as an opportunity to make a low cost, small digital rangefinder camera
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Old 05-08-2008, 08:48   #4
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/yawn four thirds sinks ever closer to P&S.
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Old 05-08-2008, 08:50   #5
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I hate carrying big cameras, so anything that's small and versatile is good with me.

Two thoughts:

1. While I'm a huge fan of live view, I've yet to find an LCD viewfinder that isn't completely useless in bright sunlight.

2. Can Olympus & Panasonic to fully support two separate SLR systems?
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:02   #6
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Is this a different mount than the other ones? would have thought it'd use the same lenses?

mirror/viewfinder assembly is just ditched to make it smaller.

The EVF on my A2 was OK but not great.
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:06   #7
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Oh and technically, if there's no reflex mirror I guess they're not SLRs...
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:11   #8
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A new rangefinder realy, IMO Sigma should have gone for an interchangable lens on the DP1, its an Ok camera restricted by the glass.

Similar sensor sizes too.
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:16   #9
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Ah they'll use new micro four thirds lenses or existing ones with an addapter (which cant help opticaly).
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:26   #10
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Originally Posted by RobDickinson View Post
with an addapter (which cant help opticaly).
Won't make any difference. The adaptor just puts back the missing register distance over normal 4/3rds ( about 20mm ) and replicates the electrical contacts. Quality will be identical to the same lens used on a normal 4/3rds.
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:27   #11
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So, it doesnt help then does it. :P
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:34   #12
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So, it doesnt help then does it. :P
I'll bet you Ł1 that you wont be able to tell the difference on a 16x12 print
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:59   #13
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Yes!
Finally we might move to getting something like the lovely little Pentax 110 SLR system!
If they stick rangefinder focussing on it then it could be fantastic!
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:18   #14
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And HD Video. But when, I wonder. Is this still 3 years from a real product. I guess they must have something close so they can steal a march on other manufacturers.
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:29   #15
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My thinking is that by announcing the news they must realise some consumers will hold off purchasing DSLR if this fits their needs. I would hope that they will have some firm product announcements soon. I'd certainly be interested in using one when I'm out and about.
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:43   #16
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My dad recently bought the Olympus SP-570 UZ. The biggest problem I had with my Canon S2 was the inability to get a really shallow DOF at the extreme end of the zoom. Results my dad is getting are quite impressive. I'm also very envious of the 20x built in zoom - I can't afford a lens capable of that for my e500!

Having now dabbled with DSLR's I'm not convinced they are ever going to be spontaneous enough for me! I know it only takes a second to change a lens but that second can be all important and with the best will in the world you can't travel light with lenses capable of doing everything!

Interesting that Olympus seem to be going both ways - prosumer type all in one's and shrinking DSLR's!
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Old 05-08-2008, 11:30   #17
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Historically it's very apt for Olympus to be doing this because it's what they did in the film world. They had some of the best and smallest 35mm compact cameras with the Trip and the XA series, they had an iddy biddy rangefinder with the 35SP and their OM range of SLRs were the smallest (and best!*) on the market. Their lenses were always cracking too.

I'm pretty excited by this news - I prefer to carry my camera with me all the time, but to have a miniature system with interchangable lenses would be perfect.




*no, seriously, they were, and if you think differently, you're wrong. It's just a fact
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Old 05-08-2008, 16:05   #18
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My thinking is that by announcing the news they must realise some consumers will hold off purchasing DSLR if this fits their needs.
If it's three years from a release, then people will have forgotten all about it and bought & used their camera systems way before then, I'd see this as a camera to use alongside your normal kit.
Would we see a selection of prime lenses to go with the new system? As it's Oly / Panasonic I'd say not really.
Oh, I my XA3.
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Old 05-08-2008, 16:13   #19
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Oh, I my XA3.
I had an XA. The Daddy!

I lent it to a colleague to take on holiday and never got it back. Thieving *******.
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Old 05-08-2008, 16:36   #20
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Would we see a selection of prime lenses to go with the new system? As it's Oly / Panasonic I'd say not really.
Why not? If They're really going for size, then primes are going to be the smallest lenses they can make?
They already do a pancake 25mm for the original four thirds. They wouldn't have to make many primes in order to keep everyone very happy : 24mm equiv, 50mm equiv and an 85mm equiv would suit me absolutely fine

Edit: and Oly have a VERY good history of making fine fine prime lenses with the Zuiko range.

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