Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Micro Four Thirds

The recent announcement by Olympus and Panasonic of a new "Micro Four Thirds" standard deserves notice. Many people have greeted it with squeals of glee, anticipating what amounts to a Four Thirds Leica Rangefinder. Yeah, right.

This is an obvious attempt to seize the "bridge" market - but guys, it won't work without seriously more megapixels and flashy bells and whistles offered by any current four thirds camera. I don't care much about micro four thirds as a photographer or as a potential purchaser.

My concern is with the future of "ordinary" 4/3rds. Those of us who bought into the concept, and have significant investment in glass (recognising that the body technology means that whatever we buy will be "obsolete" in a year or three) must wonder whether our investment is safe, or whether we will find ourselves in a stagnant backwater, just as we were with our OM4s and OM4Tis all those years ago.

Not that my OM4 doesn't still take pictures as good as the incompetence of the operator permits: so does my E1, for that matter. But I retain the painful memories of being denied access to the benefits of technology as Oly failed to update their cameras - and the anger at discovering that my expensive wide angle glass had been all-but turned into paperweights when 4/3rds came along.

Of course, Olympus have said they remain fully committed to 4/3rds proper, and I have it on excellent authority that there will be significant new additions to the Olympus "roadmap" at Photokina in a few weeks. However, am I the only one for whom that "commitment" sounds like an echo of Oly's commitment to 35mm post OM4?

What they need to do to convince me (and looking at many forums, a lot of other people) is to announce a substantial upgrade for the E3 "professional" body very soon. Otherwise the echoes of Olympus's past betrayal of their customer base may overcome the sounds of marketing hype over their new baby. Will Olympus listen to this? Their track record is not encouraging.

1 comment:

Davin said...

I hope that the e-30 allays your concerns at least for now. I actually invested in more new Oly glass as soon as micro 4/3rds was announced - so I can use these lenses with u4/3rds bodies as well (the crop factor remains the same of course).

I've got a e510 and an e410 (that I take everywhere with a 25mm pancake). I will also get an e-30 if they haven't screwed up the sensor by putting an aggressive anti-aliasing filter in front of it. I run both my cameras with noise filter off - I dont mind noise if I also get more detail, besides, it reminds me of film grain.

I will also get the first u4/3rds body that does hi def video and stereo sound. It'll be such a joy to shoot video with a shallow depth of field.

In the meantime I am sooo enjoying using my 510 with legacy long-reach glass. The IS support is wonderful. I also find it is easier to focus the longer lenses manually. It'd be great if Oly would put focus confirm in the firmware; how do we ask for this? I've got a couple AF confirm adapters (which are more helpful at shorter focal lengths where, for me, it is more difficult to focus manually), but it'd be better to have it built-in.