The Micro Four Thirds Revolution

The digital revolution as pertaining to photography has presented a dilemma of mountainous proportions. The collection of single focal length lenses for your old Nikon or Canon can be used with a new DSLR’s but the weight disadvantage and the large space needed to carry your equipments still exists. For the average advanced amateur photographer, a small to medium sized camera bag that would satisfy most photographic needs on a field trip would be ideal.

Now, the point and shoots are compact but lack the photographic quality needed for excellent photographs. Namely, they show too many artifacts at medium ISO speeds, lack enough pixels for extensive cropping and/or significant enlarging. The small dimensions fit into a pocket but lack enough area for a solid grip. The artifact problem prevents you from getting good results at high ISO speeds which are necessary in low light situations or action photos.

The prosumer models present a possible alternative and offer great zoom ratios and many great features not found on DSLRs but the size of the CMOS sensors leaves a lot to be desired in the quality category. The new micro four thirds (MFT) size cameras are built around an 18mm x 13.5mm sensor which is four times the area of a typical 2/3 sized sensor on the prosumer (i.e. super zoom models) lenses are half the weight of DSLR cameras. A 14mm x 140mm zoom lens (the 2x factor makes this an equivalent 28-280mm lens) weighs about one pound and measures three and a quarter inches long. The cameras run about four inches in length with a decent area for gripping yet light enough to be held all day long without tiring. Three zoom lenses and a few accessories will fit into a camera case less than a foot long and eight inches wide. The interchangeable lens mount with the appropriate mount adapter allows the use of many other manufacturers lenses you may own.

An added consideration is the ability of the new four thirds camera, namely the Panasonic Lumix GH1, to produce a two hour HD video with stereo sound. Of course, you need an HD TV to see it in HD. The internal zoom motor is almost soundless and there is a jack for a stereo mike with more separation. You can zoom while videoing and continuous auto focusing is available. You could say that the high cost is justified by buying a still camera with a video camera built in.

The photographic quality of the four thirds sized cameras is about ninety per cent as good as a DSLR. The Panasonic version boasts 12 Million pixels and contains most of the recently invented features enhancing the photographic experience. The auto intelligent feature which opens up the deep shadows while preserving the detail in the overly bright areas is a godsend to landscape photographers. A native ISO sensitivity of 100 is a good indication of the near artifact-less images when taking advantage of the upper ISO ranges. Of course, shooting at ISO 800 or 1600 is to be used only in an emergency. Like the high speed films of the past, the large grain inherent in such images is the price you must pay for the advantages of high ISO photography. Since this feature is used mostly for mood shots and fast action, the image quality is of minor importance compared to the story telling factor, even though in my opinion, the quality of images exposed at ISO 800 are quite sharp and acceptably free of noticeable artifacts. The advantages of a large swiveling monitor screen can not be overstated and the clarity and accuracy of the new electronic viewfinders comes close in quality to the DSLR prism viewer. Finally, a new and usable photographic standard is born.

P.S. I just bought the Panasonic Lumix DMC G1 for creating digital art for my shows.

About the Author: A retired portrait and wedding photographer, I enjoy writing how to articles, helpful articles on photography and many other subjects. My hobbies include quartet singing, shop, bicycling and photography. Please visit my web site at http://www.photoartbyken.com (Articles, Digital Art, Poetry, Original sheet music.)

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