Today, Olympus is expected to announced the very first Micro Four Thirds digital SLR camera that’s in the body of a point-and-shoot. This is historic news in the photography world.
Check out yesterday’s post featuring the world’s best image sensor chart and compare the size of the Four Thirds image sensor to that of any other SLR sensor. Then compare the Fourth Thirds image sensor to the 1/1.8″ sensor which is found in just about all point-and-shoot cameras. The Four Thirds sensor is a fair amount smaller than DSLR cameras, yet it’s much larger than the 1/1.8″ sensor.
What does this matter? Well, the Micro Four Thirds format offers quality that’s closer to SLR cameras. Carrying around a digital SLR requires a consistently conscious commitment. Four Thirds allows for a bit more mobility. Now, I won’t go so far as to say it’s a pocket camera, but it certainly doesn’t have the mass of other SLRs.
It will be interesting to see samples of the first Micro Four Thirds camera compared to DSLR images, especially photos taken at higher ISO. There’s little doubt that the larger sensor in DSLR cameras will still be better than the Micro Four Thirds, but how much better?
More specifically, what saves space in the Micro Four Thirds cameras is that it doesn’t have a mirror and a pentaprism which is found in all other SLR cameras. Technically speaking, when the mirror and pentaprism are missing from a camera with a Four Thirds sensor, it is called “Micro Four Thirds”. When the mirror and pentaprism are used with a camera with a Four Thirds sensor, it is called “Four Thirds”. Don’t think that Micro Four Thirds uses a smaller size Four Thirds sensor. It’s the same sensor. The camera just doesn’t have the mirror and pentaprism. I think it’s terrible marketing on Olympus and Pansonic’s part. Micro Four Thirds cameras also have a smaller lens mount than Four Thirds cameras. A lens adapter is required to use Four Thirds lenses on Micro Four Thirds cameras. Micro Four Thirds was announced in August 2008, but the Four Thirds sensor has been around since 2002.
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the Micro Four Thirds movement since its announcement last year. Since then, Olympus and Panasonic have released Micro Four Thirds SLR cameras, but those camera bodies are in the traditional SLR form factor. They don’t truly take advantage of the technology which allows for much smaller cameras. That all changes today. The Olympus EP-1 puts the Four Thirds sensor in the body of a point-and-shoot. This should be interesting.