Olympus and Panasonic launch Micro Four Thirds standard

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Olympus and Panasonic launch Micro Four Thirds standard

Postby Gordon Laing » Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:16 am

Hi everyone, in what’s arguably the first pre-Photokina 2008 announcement, Olympus and Panasonic have launched a new standard for interchangeable lens cameras: Micro Four Thirds.

This takes the existing Four Thirds sensor, but dispenses with the traditional SLR mirror and optical viewfinder to allow a much shorter lens to sensor distance; this in turn means smaller cameras.

So don’t think of it as a shrunken DSLR, but rather a compact with a big sensor and interchangeable lenses. Micro Four Thirds does employ a new lens mount, but can accommodate existing Four Thirds lenses with an adapter.

Details are currently brief, but you'll find today’s press release from Olympus below. As always, we're very interested to hear what you think!


OLYMPUS AND PANASONIC ANNOUNCE NEW MICRO FOUR THIRDS SYSTEM STANDARD

Tokyo, 5 August 2008 – Olympus Imaging Corporation (Olympus Imaging) and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic) today announced joint development of technologies and devices for the "Micro Four Thirds System standard," a new standard that extends the benefits of the Four Thirds System standard for interchangeable lens type digital camera systems by enabling dramatic reductions in size and weight. Under the terms of an agreement between the two companies, they will work jointly toward commercial production of significantly lighter and more compact interchangeable lens type digital camera systems.


The global market for interchangeable lens type digital SLR cameras is growing steadily, but still only accounts for a 7% share of the total digital camera market. Considering the much larger share held by interchangeable lens type SLR camera systems when film was the dominant imaging medium, it seems that there is still ample room for sales growth in the category. But compact digital cameras continue to offer an expanding range of features and performance, and market surveys indicate that customers choose compact models because they find digital SLR cameras to be "big, heavy, and difficult to operate."

Recognizing this market trend, Olympus Imaging and Panasonic have introduced products based on the Four Thirds System standard, and have led the industry in bringing features such as Live View and contrast-detection autofocusing systems to interchangeable lens type digital camera systems.

Now, Olympus Imaging and Panasonic are expanding the potential of the Four Thirds System standard even further, enabling the development of radically more compact and lightweight interchangeable lens type digital camera systems based on the Micro Four Thirds System standard. Together with the existing range of Four Thirds System products, the new range of Micro Four Thirds System products will enable customers to enjoy true interchangeable lens type digital camera system performance.

When compared to the Four Thirds System standard, the primary distinguishing characteristics of the Micro Four Thirds System standard are*:
1) Approximately 50% shorter flangeback distance (mount-to-sensor distance)
2) 6mm smaller lens mount outer diameter
3) Electrical contacts in mount increased from 9 to 11

The Micro Four Thirds System enables users to enjoy the high image quality benefits of the Four Thirds System's 4/3-type image sensor in a much more compact camera body, and also take advantage of significantly more compact lenses, particularly in the wide-angle and high-power zoom range. The Four Thirds System offers compact, lightweight performance, and the new Micro Four Thirds System will take this even further by making it possible to develop ultra-compact interchangeable lens type digital camera systems unlike anything seen before. The new Micro Four Thirds System also incorporates a greater number of lens-mount electrical contacts, enabling support for new features and increased system functionality in the future. In addition, users will be able to mount their existing Four Thirds System lenses on Micro Four Thirds System bodies via an adapter.
* Image sensor diagonal dimensions are the same for both Four Thirds System and Micro Four Thirds System standards
Moving forward, Olympus Imaging and Panasonic will jointly develop relevant technologies and devices for both Four Thirds System and Micro Four Thirds System standards, and will develop and introduce standards-compliant products in accordance with their respective business strategies.

While continuing to develop Four Thirds System interchangeable lens type digital camera system products, Olympus Imaging will also develop a range of Micro Four Thirds System lenses and accessories, and Micro Four Thirds System camera bodies that are even smaller and slimmer than the light, compact, and widely acclaimed Olympus E-410 and E420.

While continuing to develop Four Thirds System interchangeable lens type digital camera system products, Panasonic will also develop a new generation of compact, lightweight, interchangeable lens type digital camera system products, including ultra-portable camera bodies, interchangeable lenses, and related system accessories.
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Postby Welly » Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:27 am

There you go Jake, no shutter. Just what you were looking for!
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Postby Gordon Laing » Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:33 am

That's what I was thinking! And dalethorn too as I recall he wondered why we still had DSLRs with mirrors and optical viewfinder.

PS - I haven't read that there definitely won't be a shutter, but it's certainly unlikely.
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Postby Atomic » Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:12 am

Hmmm Im not too sure about this... lets see the quality of images it can produce first.

I know that traditionalists will certainly not want this, but then again this isn't aimed at them. The loss of an optical viewfinder will be a big adjustment, but for people with no SLR experience, it will be nothing new.
Atomic
 

Postby Slapo » Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:30 am

If the lenses will be of comparable quality to the current 4/3 lenses (similar models), then this could be very interesting.

Silent, compact cameras with fairly low amount of noise.
This could change the 'bridge cameras' market quite a bit - and they wouldn't even be one of them.
Slapo
 

Postby nomix » Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:54 am

SUT! I need this for my trip to the middle east!

Great.
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Postby Cam-I-Am » Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:01 am

Well... Can't say I'm surprised.

Since I bought my new superzoom camera a couple of months ago and became active on the forum here I've been thinking about the logical development of digital photography technology. I came to the conclusion that the 4/3 system was the likely 'winner' in the DSLR segment. Simply because people like small and people like cheap and that's what a smaller sensor format has to offer. Particularly in the lens department. And with sensor/processor technology progressing the IQ of this format will improve to a level that will serve the needs of most (never all) of current larger sensor format users.

Whenever I read here about someone planning to move to full-frame sensor technology I think that there is a very good chance they will regret that decision in a couple of years when a 4/3 camera by then has equalled the IQ of current FF format but they'll have spent loads of money on large and expensive optics when by then they could get the same performance in a much smaller format and at a much lower price.

And with EVFs getting better and better too the OVF will start losing its appeal. And without any additional information I would guess those two new contacts in the lens mount to be an Rx and Tx signal line indicating a logical move towards serial communication and that could mean we might (soon?) expect purely serial lenses with only 3 contacts to appear for the Micro 4/3 format.

In my head I've pretty much 'seen' the future of digital photography. Now all I have to do is wait and see whether the future will indeed bring it that way.

Ben
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Postby Bob Andersson » Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:10 am

.
Whoa. Where did that come from? Just when one was enjoying the lull before the Photokina storm Oly/Panny spring this one out of the hat.

The four-thirds site has lots more detail and diagrams. You can read all about it here. For an indication of the size of the new cameras here's an image to whet your appetite:

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Postby grahamnp » Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:17 am

Lol, I didn't see this coming!

I think it's a nice idea and all but is it really necessary? Olympus isn't exactly up there with Canon/Nikon and their lens line-up is not the biggest. Can they afford to sustain two different camera systems at the same time?

I'm very interested though! I can't wait to see what the cameras look like, Olympus is really pushing the physical limitations of cameras. Funny how they don't seem to put this effort into the size of their compacts.

Olympus said that the system will allow video capture so I think there's a good chance that the camera will not have the traditional mirror + shutter + pentaprism/mirror.

EDIT: Err....why is it called Micro "Four-thirds" when it is 16 by 9?
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Postby nomix » Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:34 am

Because the layout of the design allows even smaller lenses and bodies.

However, I think that Olympus and Pana won't have much trouble with this. They aren't the biggest camera maker, but let's not forget that Pana is a huge corporation, and that the camera market is only a niche market for Olympus, they make their really big bucks from other sources.

And why should lenses be a problem? Develop a couple of primes, and people will be happy cats. Add in a compact 14-42 and 40-150, and they've got half the compact market in their pocket.

But I really think they should focus on primes, they're easier to make, vastly more compact, brighter, smaller and will appeal to a large part of the semipro/enthusiast market. If it's weather sealed, I can see this becomming a popular backup body for war and conflict photographers. Say what you want about a D3 or a 1Dmk3, but they are huge, they make sure people notice you and they weigh more than the moon.
nomix
 

Postby Ste1976 » Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:21 pm

It obvious Olympus can't compete with the likes of Canon Nikon & maybe Sony in the DSLR market as these have massive amounts of resources to boot.

So i can see this M4/3 setup being it primary aim in the future putting the Standard 4/3 DSLR's on the back burner, as they don't have the resources to do both M4/3 & 4/3, morso with lens development as M4/3 lenses will be cheaper to make.

The Micro Four Thirds could be the begining of the end for the
Four Thirds DSLR's & lenses I think.
Ste1976
 

Postby nomix » Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:20 pm

I couldn't disagree more. Olympus is in for the long run with dSLRs, and as things work, when you sell more cameras, you get more money, you expand your business and you make more cameras to sell them.

Further, as said, Olympus makes lots of money from the professional market (when I say professional I don't mean studio photographers, but hospitals. If you ever get a camera up your bum, it'll probably be an Olympus).

Cameras are a niche for Olympus, prestigous niche even. They won't stop working on dSLRs, the dSLR market is simply to profitable at the moment, and will be for years.
nomix
 

Postby Mohamed » Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:30 pm

this is ana amzing move .. really a very good one .. i think we will see now the Fz50 succesor with the new system ..or wat do u think ?? ...i just hope panasonic learns from The L1 and The L10 ( THE PRICE )
Mohamed
 

Postby Enche Zein » Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:56 pm

I think Olympus is trying to appeal to compact camera consumers,
but do the consumers actually care about changing their lenses? since
there are bunch of advance and superzoom cameras in the market right
now.

This system will be a lot pricier to have because consumers need the body
and also the lenses (that could be more expensive than the body itself).

I don't think this system will appeal to dSLR owners since it lack
of optical viewfinder and might be compromise on buttons and other controls.
Enche Zein
 

Postby Atomic » Tue Aug 05, 2008 2:26 pm

grahamnp wrote:Lol, I didn't see this coming!

I think it's a nice idea and all but is it really necessary? Olympus isn't exactly up there with Canon/Nikon and their lens line-up is not the biggest. Can they afford to sustain two different camera systems at the same time?

I'm very interested though! I can't wait to see what the cameras look like, Olympus is really pushing the physical limitations of cameras. Funny how they don't seem to put this effort into the size of their compacts.

Olympus said that the system will allow video capture so I think there's a good chance that the camera will not have the traditional mirror + shutter + pentaprism/mirror.

EDIT: Err....why is it called Micro "Four-thirds" when it is 16 by 9?



The omission of the traditional mirror method is a given, thats the whole point of the Micro 4/3

and 16 x 9 are dimensions, 4:3 is a ratio. 16:9=4:3.
Atomic
 

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