Micro Four Thirds System

August 5, 2008 | Mark Goldstein | Digital SLR Cameras | 15 Comments |

Micro Four Thirds SystemOlympus and Panasonic have jointly developed the “Micro Four Thirds System standard”, producing significantly lighter and more compact cameras. The Micro Four Thirds sensor will remain the same size (18x13.5mm) as the current Four Thirds standard, but the optical viewfinder and mirror box are completely removed so that a Micro Four Thirds camera is 50% thinner. Also lenses are smaller, due to the 6mm smaller lens mount outer diameter, and movies are also set to feature.  Olympus is developing a range of Micro Four Thirds System lenses and accessories, and Micro Four Thirds System camera bodies smaller than the E-420. Likewise, Panasonic are also working on ultra-portable camera bodies, interchangeable lenses, and related system accessories, so we’d expect new product announcements shortly before Photokina in September. Both companies will continue to develop “normal” Four Thirds DSLR products. So what do you make of the new Micro Four Thirds System standard - is a tiny DSLR-like camera without an optical viewfinder that can also shoot movies the camera for you?

Olympus / Panasonic Press Release

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.

About the Four Thirds System Standard
The Four Thirds System standard defines design and development standards for interchangeable lens type digital camera systems that fully realize the performance potential of digital technology. Four Thirds System cameras utilize a 4/3-type image sensor that delivers the high image quality expected of interchangeable lens type digital camera systems in a form factor that assures outstanding mobility. The Four Thirds System standard is an open standard that enables bodies and lenses produced by participating manufacturers to exchange information and be used interchangeably with one another.

Micro Four Thirds System

Micro Four Thirds System

Micro Four Thirds System

Micro Four Thirds System

Micro Four Thirds System



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15 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 JoeyAbc

You just took those Diagrams from Dpreview and made the BG black to hide the watermark...

9:25 am - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#2 Anthony

Actually JoeyAbc the images look like they come from the Four Thirds webiste, not the DPReview website.

9:49 am - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#3 Antony Shephred

Four things to say, really.

1. You can't really call it a DSLR, as there's no 'R' involved any more.

2. Wonder if they're going to resurrect the 'PEN' brand for these, and style them after the old Pen-F in the same way the E420 takes its design cues from the OM series.

3. Goodbye Sigma DP1, it was nice knowing you.

4. Cool! Olympus have just announced my next digital camera!

10:47 am - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#4 Mustafa Ajlan Abudak

Cool...

Olympus has done again innovation makes its first debut before photokina.It seems the image warfare will be the biggest ever in this time in Cologne.I think because of the Zuiko lenses Olympus deserves to be better place in detail brand share at the market.Even thoough they have the best available and purchasable high quality lenses on the market, they have the lack of high semi conductor tech which answer market needs like nosie and highligted detail and their CMOS engineering which degregades the quality of their shapest lenses.(of course after Leica) The biggest problem of the Olympus in my opinion sensor quality.I hope Olympus engineers who ? respect more than Nikons or Pentaxs ( They are clever but comsumer tricky because they do not really invent new alternative tech , they rather boost up the saturation and sharpeness in D60 and Pentax 200D lower ends and their pro CMOSs can not even comparable to Canon ) will bring an ultimate solution to this big problem because it really effects their amrket share more than they think..

Maybe this will become true for Olympus then we will talk who is the second place after Canon.Cause this future sensor development will provide Olympus in to real competition.

Yeah undoubtly this Photokina will determine next 2 years leading second company.Nikon attacked more agrresivly to Canon but I think can not notice enough the trailers. it is so arguable to think they will manage to hold the second place if the trailers (Sony,Olympus,Panasonic,maybe Pentax) keep on inventig new (compact) techologies with better prices..

11:53 am - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#5 Karel

Cool! This could be the high IQ relatively large sensor low noise/high ISO P&S;I have been waiting for... and could even replace my Canon 20D...Move over G9's!

12:26 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#6 Mark Goldstein

JoeyAbc, the images were supplied to us by Olympus. We never reuse other websites' images without their permission. They've actually sent a few more, which I'll add asap.

2:32 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#7 Mike Botelho

An SLR is a camera where a TTL image is viewed via a moving mirror system, and a DSLR is simply a digital version of the same. I'm sorry, but announcing the Micro Four Thirds system as 'lighter and more compact DSLR cameras' is not a statement that a knowledgeable photo site should be making, since the whole point of this new system is that the cameras have no mirror reflex system and are *not* digital SLRs.

That aside, this is a really exciting announcement. I've long waited for a digital camera that shoots like a rangefinder but has the image quality of larger-sensor cameras. This sounds like a street photographer's dream.

4:02 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#8 Darrel Wadda

I've been happy with my e510 but debating whether to invest in more lenses less I switch platforms. I now have no doubt I'll be sticking to 4/3rds.

Good, compact telephoto lenses. One happy street photographer. My new toy next year.

PS: Please Olympus make the 4/3rds to micro 4/3rds adapter in various flavours - including a 1.4x or 2x teleconvertor.

5:41 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#9 Mark Goldstein

Fair point Mike, I've amended the article accordingly.

6:11 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#10 alberto

Panasonic comprara a Olympus en 1 o 2 años mas y sera similar a Sony cuando compro a Minolta para hacer su "Alpha".
Sera "Panalympus" la nueva marca???.
(Panasonic buy Olympus in 1 o 2 years, and name "Panalympus"?; Similar Sony buy Minolta and name "Alpha"?).

7:49 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#11 Larry Mendelsohn

Sounds like a fine idea, especially for the more consumer oriented photographer who wants to move up to an interchangeable lens camera. I doubt that it will attract much attention from the enthusiast and pro markets.

I would be curious if Oly will be able to put image stabilization in body or will it have to be in the lens considering the size of the camera.

8:01 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#12 Eric Lewtas

I think this is a really exciting development. I've owned two DSLRs but sold them because they were too big and cumbersome to carry around. I'd love a really pocketable camera that can deliver DSLR quality and this may be it. Hope it is priced competitively!

8:16 pm - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#13 Eric S

I hope some of these cameras will be rangefinder types.

3:59 am - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

#14 Sir Marky

Bring on the digital rangefinder....ummm...again.....

8:56 am - Saturday, August 9, 2008

#15 P.J.Coll

A coupled viewfinder like the one on some of the Canon A series cameras. if its posible with interchangeable lenses.

11:57 pm - Saturday, August 30, 2008