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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Misinformation: Business Tech

Micro Four Thirds has grown into a formidable stills and video contender

Olympus OM-D E-M1

When Olympus first introduced the Four Thirds system in 2003, the concept was twofold.
Firstly, thanks to a brand-new, but smaller digital sensor design in a 4/3 ratio that ditched out on their previous legacy film lenses, the Four Thirds sensors offered comparable imaging to APS-C and full frame in bodies that were much more compact and lighter in weight than these larger-sensor solutions. Secondly, Four Thirds was offered up as a sort of open-source format. Olympus and Kodak pioneered the format, with Panasonic adding innovation soon thereafter. The system evolved into the Micro Four Thirds mount in the summer of 2008 with the release of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G1, and the LUMIX DMC-GH1 with video joined the lineup in April 2009.
Myth: Professionals Don't Use Micro Four Thirds
Now, with the release of the wildly anticipated video-and-still shooter, the Lumix DMC-GH4, the Micro Four Thirds system has grown up. At 16 megapixels, the camera now sports comparable resolution to APS-C and full-frame cameras alongside a sophisticated and fast autofocus system with elements of both phase- and contrast-detect. A number of EVF solutions are also available for those who prefer to look through a viewfinder, and the native lens selection has grown to a sizable offering, including two new lenses leading off Olympus' new M.ZUIKO PRO category, the M.ZUIKO 7-14mm ƒ/2.8 and the M.ZUIKO ED 300mm ƒ/4.

Interestingly, the only difference between the previous Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds (MFT) systems was a new flange distance between the lens mount and sensor at 20mm, roughly half the distance of the previous Four Thirds mount. With an effective imaging area of 17.3x13mm, the sensor sizes are actually the same dimensions as Four Thirds, and you can use older Four Thirds lenses and even film-era Olympus OM lenses on MFT bodies through adapters. Thanks to Live View, the reason behind the move to MFT was that the bulky mirror box system and viewfinder could finally be removed, the "mirrorless" design that many new cameras now feature as standard. Currently, mirrorless cameras sporting the MFT system include the (digital) PEN and OM-D lines from Olympus and Panasonic's DMC cameras. Thanks to MFT's popularity with videographers, a number of lens manufacturers are also releasing brand-new, dedicated MFT lenses, including Schneider-Kreuznach, Leica, Kowa, Mitakon, SLR Magic, Voigtländer Cosina, Tamron, Samyang/Rokinon and Sigma.

There are a few problems with the format, however. Because of the short flange distance and small sensor, wide-angle and macro lenses are few and far between. Thanks to the 2.0x magnification of both Four Thirds and MFT sensors, available focal lengths are also effectively doubled. So, while it only weighs a fifth of a pound, the LUMIX G Vario 12-32mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens from Panasonic is equivalent to a barely wide 24-64mm, for example, while the very widest Olympus MFT lens, the M.Zuiko ED 9-18mm ƒ/4.0-5.6 zoom, actually starts at 18mm. Also, while there's no denying the amazing imaging quality of MFT cameras, all other considerations being equal, larger sensors result in superior image quality because they gather more light while at the same time offering a larger area on the sensor for bigger pixels and better resolution. While differences in imaging quality between systems have become mitigated by advancing technologies over the years, ISO options in MFT are often a stop or two short of larger-sensor cameras for this reason. MFT sensors are, in fact, about 30% to 40% smaller than an APS-C sensor, depending on the model, and when compared to a full-frame sensor, they're literally half the size. Similarly, because a smaller sensor will have extended depth of field over the same aperture on a larger sensor, shallower depth of field and macro are harder to achieve with MFT cameras.

On the flip side, this is an advantage for video because focusing becomes much easier with the larger hyperfocal distance. Blackmagic Design has taken note of this feature, and alongside Canon EF and cinematic PL mounts, they offer MFT mounts for their Pocket Cinema Camera and Cinema Camera, as well as their brand-new professionally oriented Studio Camera. Lens possibilities include a huge variety of modern and classic lenses from Panasonic, Leica, Voigtländer Cosina, Contax, Pentax, Canon, Nikon and many more. A litany of adapters are available from Dot Line, Metabones, Novoflex, Voigtländer Cosina, Bower, Vello, Phottix, Pro-Optic, Zeiss, Fotodiox and, of course, Olympus and Panasonic. While they cost nearly $800, 16x9 Inc. and Chrosziel even make Micro Four Thirds mounts that will allow you to use huge PL-mount cinema lenses on tiny Micro Four Thirds cameras!


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