Time To Lose The Mirror

Micro Four Thirds

The smaller format has a lot to offer, thanks to sophisticated cameras and high-tech optics

Micro Four Thirds sensors are smaller than APS-C sensors. This allows for smaller camera bodies, and especially for smaller lenses, because the lenses don’t have to cover such a large sensor area. Yet the MFT sensor is big enough that image quality—especially with recent MFT cameras—is competitive with many APS-C cameras. And where quality compact lenses designed for APS-C cameras are relatively few, a wide range exists for Micro Four Thirds. With MFT, you can put together a full-featured street-shooting system that’s much smaller than an APS-C system, yet give up little in terms of image quality.

Olympus’ top-of-the-line Micro Four Thirds model is the OM-D E-M1. It’s a full-featured camera featuring a 16.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor and a "mini-DSLR" form factor with high-resolution built-in eye-level electronic viewfinder. On-chip Dual Fast AF uses 81-point quick contrast-based AF with Micro Four Thirds lenses and 37-point phase-detection AF when a Four Thirds System lens is attached. A three-inch tilting touch-screen LCD monitor offers touch AF and manual focus peaking. Five-axis sensor-shift image stabilization is very effective, and you can shoot up to 10 fps (6.5 fps with AF) for up to 45 RAW or 95 JPEG images. Built-in Wi-Fi lets you operate your camera from your smartphone, geotag images using the smartphone’s GPS and send images to your smartphone wirelessly. The splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof OM-D EM-1 can also shoot 1080p and 720p video at 30 fps with stereo sound via built-in microphone. Dimensions: 5.0×3.7×2.5 inches, 15.6 ounces. Estimated street price: $1,299.

Panasonic’s top MFT model is the Lumix DMC-GH4. Like the E-M1, it features a 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor and a "mini-DSLR" form factor, with a built-in 2359K-dot OLED EVF complemented by a free-angle 1036K-dot OLED touch-screen monitor for easy odd-angle shooting. It can shoot up to 12 fps (7.5 fps with continuous AF), and up to 40 fps with electronic shutter. Normal ISO range is 200-25600. A rugged die-cast splashproof magnesium alloy body, a shutter tested to 200,000 cycles (with speeds from 60 seconds to 1⁄8000 and flash sync up to 1⁄250) and built-in Wi-Fi with NFC are further pluses. Dimensions: 5.2×3.7×3.3 inches, 16.9 ounces. Estimated street price: $1,699.

Size Characteristics Of Mirrorless Cameras

A full-frame DSLR is bulky, especially the pro models, but as mentioned earlier, even the entry-level ones are noticeably larger than the Leica M and Sony a7 cameras. Mirrorless lenses are smaller, too—despite both having to cover a full 35mm frame. Leica’s 35mm ƒ/1.4 measures 1.8×2.1 inches and weighs just 11.3 ounces, while Nikon’s AF-S 35mm ƒ/1.4G measures 3.3×3.5 inches and weighs 21.1 ounces.

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