Talking to Myself Micro Four Thirds

Hey I was thinking of buying a new camera and I saw these call Micro Four Thirds cameras. They will be the death of DSLR’s!

Well micro four thirds cameras are not that new, they were first released in 2008 and an evolution of the four thirds system.

Wait, what is this Four Thirds business?

Four thirds is a reference to the sensor size. The sensor has a ratio of 4:3, which is going against the convention of typical DSLR’s that have a ratio of 3:2 the same as 35mm film. The four thirds system was a standard created by Kodak and Olympus and was designed completely from the ground up to create a new digital camera system for DSLR’s.

Ok and what about Micro Four Thirds?

Well Micro Four Thirds is the evolution of the Four Thirds system and a standard for Olympus and Panasonic. In developing the micro system they removed the use of a mirror and prism from the camera design bringing the lens closed to the sensor. In doing this the camera becomes smaller and lighter.

Oh yeah, I have heard of these cameras they are called mirror less cameras.

Yes and no, Micro Four Thirds are mirror less cameras but not all mirror less cameras are Micro Four Thirds. For example the Nikon One and the Canon EOS M are mirror less cameras but do not use the Micro Four Thirds sensor.

I understand Micro Four Third cameras have a specific sensor size and no mirror and prism. How does this affect the camera?

MFT 4First without the mirror and prism the camera relies on the  live view on the LCD to compose and see what you are going to capture. With using live view you can more accurately see what you are going to take, including the brightness and the colours.
Removing the mirror means that the camera is much lighter and smaller so can be easier to carry than a DSLR, great for if you are travelling. Micro Four Thirds carries the punch of a DSLR without the bulk.

I remember you said before that bigger is better when it comes to sensors, so why is small good now.

I wouldn’t say that small was great it just works in making the whole camera more compact and that is the trade-off. A smaller sensor does mean that the pixels will be smaller and therefore less sensitive to light. Compared to traditional DSLR’s there will be more noise on a Four Thirds System at higher ISO’s. It has also been said that the maximum number of pixels that could be made available is about 24 mega pixels.

How many pixels do I need?

We have talked about this before

Yeah I remember. So I have to shoot in ratio 4:3?

No most Micro Four Third cameras allow you to shoot in the 3:2 ratio and even the 1:1 square format. In doing this though you are not using the full potential of the sensor and will be wasting pixels the same as when you crop a DSLR image down. This choice of shooting ratios is good if you know you are going to crop to one of those on offer.

MFT 2 Micro Four Thirds is small like a compact but yet I have the option of using all of the DSLR lenses.

Glad you mentioned lenses. With a reduced flange focal distance….

Wait flange what, I thought a flange was a type of food.

A flange is the metal ring on the camera body where the lens attaches to the camera. The flange focal distance is the distance from the metal ring to the sensor or film plain. Having a shortened flange focal distance, due the mirror and prism being removed, means that lenses can be made cheaper and lighter.

Excellent lenses are cheaper and lighter.

They are, but the choice of lenses is not as great as with a tradition DSLR. Micro Four Thirds use an open system so you can use a Panasonic lens on your Olympus camera or a Sigma Four Thirds lens on a Panasonic camera. The cameras also allow you to use legacy lenses with an adaptor. When using legacy lenses you may not be able to use the lenses auto focus also most legacy lenses will require a firmware update.

Legacy lenses?

Legacy lenses are lenses created for older cameras that use the original Four Thirds systems.

There is a choice of lenses but not as wide as a DSLR?

Partly true but I wouldn’t put it quite like that, Canon and Nikon lenses are not interchangeable  with each other without adapters which then effects their focal length. And third party lenses need to be made for each lens system. What the Micro Four Thirds system does allow is a more open approach to the lenses designed for Micro Four Thirds cameras.

The lenses are good then.

The one of the drawbacks is the same as with all mirror less cameras and that is the crop factor. The crop factor of Micro Four Thirds is x2. This means that a 12mm prime lens for Micro Four Thirds is the equivalent of a 24mm lens on a DLSR. This makes a huge difference when you think about the angle of the lens and what you can view. In theory to get a 14mm DSLR equivalent on a micro four thrids camera it would need to be a 7mm lens.
Another negative for some would be that the Micro Four Third cameras have a deeper Depth of field than a DSLR. This would be a negative because with a shallower depth of field photographers can control the focus of the image and point the viewer to what to look like. Also if you are a huge fan of Bokeh then these cameras are not for you as the deeper depth of field prevents the effect.
On Micro Four Thirds lenses the autofocus is also a bit sluggish compared to DSLR and Regular Four Third lenses, making focusing on moving objects harder.

Why are people moving over to Micro Four Thirds?


Well the technology and design is quite new and the latest in camera design. When DSLRs where first designed they took the design of a film SLR and converted it to digital. Micro Four Thirds has been designed from the sensor up which makes a difference to way in which the camera works. People may have been moving to the camera for a few reasons; they need the power of a DSLR not the weight or maybe they want a compact camera with more control. In the end Micro Four Thirds cameras are another tool for a photographer to choose that for some will fit neatly with their work. I think this would be a great camera system for a travel or street photographer.

 Should I buy a Micro Four Thirds Camera?

If you want a lighter camera with some of the DSLR potential then this is a contender but so are most of the mirror less cameras on the market. Micro Four Thirds advantage over mirror less cameras is that there is more choice in lenses and not having to be dependent on the lenses made by your cameras brand. Of course there are draw backs, the use of live view changes the way you take a picture moving the camera back to your face and making precise focusing more difficult. There are adapters you can buy to use live view with a view finder, yet this is an added cost. For many the deeper depth of filed will not be advantageous, as always with some creative thinking you could use this to you advantage.

Why is it so confusing to buy a camera?

When you leave the compact camera market there are a wide range of models available, it can be easy to say that the DSLR is best because the Pro’s use it but  each person and each photographer has their own style and their own approach to photograph. For some the pros and cons of one system outweighs those of another. In the end all that matters is the image.

The Image is everything

The image is everything


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7 thoughts on “Talking to Myself Micro Four Thirds

      • That depends Ben. I don’t think micro 4/3 is going to get me what I want for birds but for macro I think it could well make all my big lenses redundant. That is the plan. I meed to explore flashes available etc. And then for landscapes, although I don’t do much, yes I think between an Oly and my Leica gear I can offload the heavy lenses. I do like my 85mm F1.2 so I shall have to see what the portrait lens availability is. Sooner or later, lighter will win out.

      • I think with its deeper depth of field and good glass macro might be interesting but for your bird shots I don’t think MFT is the camera, for this you need the larger sensor and have a eye level viewfinder. Your are right that lighter will win out for some (including yourself maybe) in the future.

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