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a history of Micro Four Thirds part IX - Third Party options

Micro FourThirds System

The current success of the Micro FourThirds mirrorless platform lends itself to its popularity. Here is a system that is not only embraced by those who enjoy using their cameras and accessories for still photography but also by those who take pleasure from its video capabilities. These are the people who either like the idea of having the convenience of video at the touch of a button or take it much further into the realms of serious videography. In fact quite a number of movie projects including major motion pictures have been shot using Micro FourThirds cameras. Apart from these, there have been very high-end video and CCTV applications as well.

A good look at the vendors who have signed up with Micro FourThirds gives strong clues as to how they see the platform beneficial to their product lines. Here you get to identify not just the types of vendors but the markets they are competing in. In other words not all of them may directly provide options for Olympus and Panasonic cameras and if that is the case, these vendors are certain to add depth to the wealth of what Micro FourThirds is truly capable of.

1. Astrodesign, Inc Japan High-resolution industrial cameras
2. Blackmagic Design Pty Ltd Australia High-resolution cinema cameras
3. Cosina Co Ltd Japan Camera lenses
4. Jackar Optical Hong Kong Camera lenses
5. JK Imaging Ltd U.S.A. Kodak-branded consumer-grade cameras
6. Kenko Tokina Co Ltd Japan Camera lenses
7. Komamura Corporation Japan Monorail and bellows accessories
8. Lensbaby LLC U.S.A. Special effects lenses and adaptors
9. Metabones Hong Kong High-speed lens adaptors
10. MXCamera Hong Kong Lenses, high-speed lens adaptors and accessories
11. Nauticam Hong Kong Underwater camera housings and lens ports
12. SLR Magic Hong Kong Camera lenses
13. Photron Ltd Japan High-resolution industrial cameras
14. Samyang Optics Co Ltd Korea Camera lenses
15. Jos Schneider Optische Werke GmbH Germany Camera and cine lenses
16. Sigma Corporation Japan Camera lenses
17. SVS-Vistek GmbH Germany High-resolution industrial cameras
18. Tamron Co Ltd Japan Camera lenses
19. ViewPLUS Inc Japan High-resolution industrial cameras
20. Zacuto USA U.S.A. Specialist video support accessories
21. Carl Zeiss AG GmbH Germany Camera and cine lenses

Astrodesign, Inc.

Astrodesign’s products are not likely to reach the consumer market. That’s because Astrodesign’s involvement in video electronics is directly accessible only within the industry. The company first achieved renown more than thirty years ago when they launched the first programmable video signal generator in the world. Just eight years ago at the Aichi Expo, they unveiled super high-definition video processing systems. In between that time much has been explored successfully, chiefly in the areas of wave-form monitor and multiplexing systems for the digital broadcast medium.

In the new millennium, Astrodesign’s innovation is called upon to meet the needs of digital signal transmission where the most advanced technologies are in great demand. High-quality display resolution for TV and data communications is just one such area that the company is involved in. We believe that in the decision to join Micro FourThirds will accelerate the company’s quest for the total video solution. We have yet to see anything concrete but we’re confident that something will come out from this investment. As a leader in ‘High-Speed Digital Signal Processing,’ Astrodesign has the means and experience to create a new video standard and Micro FourThirds will likely be at the centre of it.

ASTRODESIGN, INCORPORATED 1-5-2 Minami-Yukigaya, Ota-ku, Tokyo, Japan 145-0066
Websites: www.astrodesign.co.jp/english/ and http://astro-americas.com/
Leading Products: Astro 2k SSD Recorder HR-7502/-A, 28-inch 4K monitor DM-3428, DF-3511 High-Resolution (1920x1080) Electronic Viewfinder with Full HD LCoS, HR-7510 4K Uncompressed Recorder
Micro FourThirds Products (Industrial) Astro AH-4413 professional high-definition 4K camera head with 8.9-megapixel CMOS sensor

Blackmagic Design

Blackmagic Design’s leadership credentials are founded in creative video technologies. This is a company that has an enviable history in post-production editing and engineering and from there, with their accumulated experiences in high-end telecine, film and post, set out to redefine their role in the industry.

Today Blackmagic Design is about outstanding video products that encompass both hardware and software. With their world-famous codecs, Blackmagic Design is epitomised by high-end quality editing workstations that are also affordable. But in recent times, their name has come up again, this time by becoming the latest participant to join the Micro FourThirds group. And with that, they marked 2012 and 2013 with breakthrough video camera designs that have broken the conventional mould.

Called the Pocket Cinema Camera, the Super 16 digital camera features an active Micro FourThirds lens mount coupled to a high resolution 3.5-inch LCD panel so that access to the best prime and zoom lenses is guaranteed be it from Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Sigma, Tamron or others. With the right mount adaptor, Zeiss and Schneider-Kreuznach cine lenses are also available.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is a different proposition altogether. While not exactly pocketable, this camera with its 2.5K image sensor has 13 stops of dynamic range and a built-in SSD recorder and is also designed to accept Micro FourThirds lenses via a passive mount. Videographers and avid movie shooters now have plenty of options and still enjoy access to the Micro FourThirds format.

BLACKMAGIC DESIGN PTY LTD. 11 Gateway Court, Port Melbourne, Victoria 3207, Australia
Website: www.blackmagicdesign.com/
Leading Products: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, ATEM Production Switchers, ATEM Television Studio, ATEM Camera and Studio Converters, ATEM Production Studio 4K, HyperDeck Shuttle, HyperDeck Studio, DeckLink, Intensity Pro, Intensity Shuttle for USB 3.0, Intensity Shuttle for Thunderbolt™, Intensity Extreme, UltraStudio for USB 3.0, UltraStudio for Thunderbolt™, Teranex 2D and 3D Processors, DaVinci Resolve, DaVinci Revival, Mini Converters, Mini Converter Heavy Duty, Battery Converters, OpenGear Converters, Videohub Control Panels, Universal Videohub, Videohub Routers, DVI Extenders, HDLink, SmartView, SmartScope Duo, Blackmagic Audio Monitor, Blackmagic UltraScope, H.264 Pro Recorder, H.264 Encoding Video Recorder
Micro FourThirds Products (Cine) Pocket Cinema Camera; Cinema Camera

Cosina

Cosina is no stranger to the camera industry but among the younger generation who is more conversant with big-time camera brand names, it’s not a readily-known identity. Despite that, Cosina has been the ‘name behind other names,’ having been the OEM manufacturer for more camera companies than one can imagine.

For Olympus, Cosina helped build the OM2000 Spot, the company’s last OM body before the story came to a grinding halt. They also manufactured Yashica’s FX3, Nikon’s duo the mechanical manual FM10 and the dual-mode FE10, the Konica TC-X and Canon’s T60. Various Vivitar models were also in the mix. Cosina of course produced film cameras under its own name. From 1978 to the heady days of the late Eighties, the company offered not just compact but also SLR cameras and lenses.

Today Cosina’s portfolio has widened. They not only manufacture cameras for Epson but also the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder film camera that also features a Leica bayonet mount. At the same time they produce under licence from Zeiss manual-focusing lenses that are available in different mounts including Leica (ZM), Pentax (ZK), Nikon (ZF), Canon EOS (ZE) and the M42 (ZS) universal screw mount. Cosina has also obtained the rights to the Voigtländer name from Ringfoto in Germany, from which point they introduced the Bessa range of film rangefinder cameras as well as a series of manual-focusing lenses to complement it.

Upon joining the Micro FourThirds group in April 2010, Cosina released manual-focusing but bright prime lenses for the mirrorless platform under the Voigtländer Nokton name. Currently available are the Nokton 17.5mm f0.95 wide-angle and the 25mm f0.95 standard lenses. We not only believe more lenses will eventually be released but also that the company could go into OEM manufacturing for the newer aspiring Micro FourThirds camera brands.

COSINA CO. LTD.
Websites: www.cosina.co.jp
Leading Products: Carl Zeiss lenses, Voigtländer BESSA rangefinder cameras, lenses and accessories, Micro FourThirds lenses, OEM manufacturer of lenses and cameras
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo, manual focusing) Nokton range
17.5mm f0.95
25mm f0.95
42.5mm f0.95

Jackar Optical

There’s not a lot on the Internet that will tell us who Jackar Optical is. We know neither the company’s full name nor its address apart from being Hong Kong based. The only information we could extract was all done behind the scenes since its website does not offer address details. From what we can gather, the name behind Jackar Optical is a person by the name of Jacky Wong who owns a company called DCPlus who in fact owns the web domain for Jackar Optical. DCPlus is of course one of five places mentioned in the website that offers the Snapshooter lens for sale.

At the same time we can be sure that Jackar’s first lens for Micro FourThirds, called the Snapshooter 34mm f1.8, is at best a budget-primed proposition for those who cannot afford Olympus’ fast and bright glass options.

DCPLUS RM 04C,1/F Lai Cheong Factory Building, 479 Castle Peak Road, Cheung Sha Wan, HK 852, Hong Kong
Websites: http://snapshooter.jackarlens.com and http://jackarlens.com/
Leading Products: Lenses and camera accessories
Micro FourThirds Product Snapshooter 34mm f1.8 with lens hood

JK Imaging

Not a lot is known about JK Imaging Ltd other than recent news that it has acquired a global licensing agreement from Eastman Kodak Company for the use of the Kodak brand name. Apart from that, there is also the small matter of JK Imaging joining Micro FourThirds group. Put the two together and we’re looking at the possibility that where Kodak themselves had failed, this fledgling American company could put the vaunted brand name on to a new Micro FourThirds mirrorless camera.

All these of course could be premature thinking. After all there were plenty of companies that had once joined the FourThirds group only to remain completely inactive. Names like Sanyo, Fujifilm and even Kodak were all signatories and yet for the six years since the format’s inception in 2003, they produced nothing. While Kodak did provide the CCD sensors for the early range of Olympus’ DSLR cameras (E-1, E-300 and E-400), they essentially petered out. JK Imaging could be headed in the same direction but who knows.

The issue with JK Imaging is also an intriguing one. When we did research on the company, we discovered that there was a big effort made in concealing their address. It was not until we got to their website’s fine print that we began to unearth the information. Still it leaves one perplexed as to the mystery behind this company. Even the website name is strange because it does not refer directly to JK Imaging.

PetaPixel’s article entitled, “Kodak Brand Licence Holder JK Imaging Shrouded in Mystery” doesn’t pull any punches as well and is worth reading for those who are interested. According to the article, JK Imaging’s address just happens to be the same as the one for General Imaging, which is the licensee for GE branding of digital cameras. Herein lies a very interesting situation.

The CEO of JK Imaging, Joe Atick, (Could ‘J’ stand for Joe Atick and ‘K’ for Kodak in JK Imaging?) is also the chairman for JA Capital Holdings as well as a principal of Jaacx Distributors Corporation. Both of these are also shrouded in mystery. As the latter company, they are a consumer electronics distributor in the Latin American market for Sony and Olympus products. At the same time the other company that shares its address, General Imaging, has a familiar twang to its name and very interestingly, this company was set up by ex-Olympus personnel who decided to manufacture digital cameras using the GE branding.

We don’t know enough of JK Imaging to know anything beyond what we’ve already mentioned here. There could even be a joint-interest between JK Imaging and GE Imaging as both could be under the JA Capital Holdings umbrella. Both could share future camera designs. JK Imaging could ‘easily’ source designs from ex-Olympus people at GE Imaging and there could be inside connections that could help JK Imaging brand Micro FourThirds mirrorless cameras under the Kodak name.

The mind boggles as to where the possibilities could lead but here’s the starting point and everyone in the industry is probably training their eyes to see where they’re going in the near future. We know we are.

JK IMAGING LTD 1411 W.190th, Suite 550, Gardena, California 90248, United States of America
Websites: http://kodakcamera.jkltd.com
Leading Products: Digital cameras
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo, consumer) Kodak S1 camera

Kenko Tokina

To understand Kenko Tokina, one needs to take in a much larger picture of who Kenko is and who Tokina is separately and what it means to have them combined. Between the two, Kenko is the older name, being the trading front for Murakami Shashin Yōhin K.K. who later became Kenkō Shashin Yōhin K.K. Today the parent company is called Kenko Co. Ltd. Tokina, on the other hand, was founded in 1950, some twenty-two years after Murakami and later was absorbed by Hoya Corporation as a division, partnering Pentax for some years before Kenko bought them over.

Kenko’s history is largely unheralded but is nonetheless fairly significant. As early as 1929, the company released what was arguably Japan’s first box camera, the It. The Kenko brand was already long in use by the time the Second World War arrived. By then as well, the Kenko name was on many of its cameras and other accessories although the company had various other companies making products for them under the same branding. Today Kenko sells a rather huge assortment of photographic products that it makes as well as have others made for them. These include digital and film cameras, camcorders and of course its lenses are made and branded under Tokina. They also sell tripods using the Slik and Daiwa names, filters under the Cokin and Lee brands, Tamrac camera bags, ATP memory cards and Aska viewers and storage devices as well as Kenko meters that are based on past Minolta designs. Six years ago in 2007, Fujimoto Shashin Kōgyō became part of Kenko and with that, came a comprehensive range of excellent film enlargers and slide projectors.

Tokina’s reputation is probably better known because its lenses have been in the scene during the burgeoning film SLR days. Tokina uses optical glass that has since been supplied by Hoya and that hasn’t changed today even though Kenko owns them. When they were owned by Hoya, Tokina played a hugely important role in sharing in the development of lenses with Pentax and Schneider-Kreuznach particularly the D-Xenon and D-Xenogon brands even if they operated their research centres, design and engineering teams independently.

Together Kenko Tokina is now run by Kenko’s International Division. It is this division that joined the Micro FourThirds group as an active participant. It is probable that Tokina was ‘encouraged’ by not only Sigma but also Tamron’s decision to join. To date, they have launched a manual-focusing mirror lens in Micro FourThirds mount, which looks uncannily like a Kenko-branded version. We understand Tokina is poised to release more in the near future with a strong possibility that amongst them will be some impressive autofocusing zoom lenses.

KENKO TOKINA CO. LTD.Kenko International Division, 3-9-19 Nishi-Ochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 161-8570, Japan
Websites: www.kenkoglobal.com
Leading Products: Kenko SLR film cameras utilising Ai, Y/C and K mounts, Kenko camera accessories including teleconverters, extension tubes, mirror lenses, LCD monitor film protectors and clamp-type tripods, Tokina lenses including Micro FourThirds lenses, Kenko and Zeta photographic filters, Kenko digital exposure, flash and colour meters, Lucky film colour and mono enlargers, Aosta camera bags, Kenko binoculars, Slik and Daiwa tripods, Aska Tripper portable storage and viewing devices and Aska memory card adaptors
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo, manual focusing) Tokina 300mm f6.3 Reflex

Komamura

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Of the many parts of its business, the one that endears it most to the industry will be its Horseman field cameras. Komamura began with its first camera in 1948, supplying the camera to the Japanese police. The company honed the Horseman with co-development work done with Tōkyō Kōgaku, who later became known as Topcon. Up till today, the Horseman takes pride of place at Komamura as the defining product for which it is well known.

Komamura’s other businesses involve the distribution of Minox and Rollei products as well as Schneider-Kreuznach professional cine lenses, the Astroscope™ Night Vision (adaptable to different DSLR mounts) including accessories such as the ExpoDisc digital white balance filter. Also part of its portfolio is the Rogue series of studio flash accessories that include flash bender, diffusion boxes, grid adaptor and gel filters.

Komamura’s decision to join Micro FourThirds might not be very apparent at the beginning but their vision of building around their Horseman concept offered a slightly different perspective to what mirrorless cameras could do. With the Horseman’s monorail, the mirrorless camera could be mounted and the lens attached to the lens board. In this configuration, many interesting possibilities arise.

KOMAMURA CORPORATION 3-2-4 Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0013, Japan
Websites: www.komamura.co.jp
Leading Products: Horseman cameras and accessories, Minox and Rollei cameras, Schneider-Kreuznach cine lenses, Astroscope™ Night Vision lenses for different camera mounts, Expodisc digital white balance, Rogue studio flash attachments and other accessories
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo/Cine) Horseman TS-pro tilt/shift lens control system

Lensbaby

Lensbaby made its name by offering a completely different way of photographing. Rather than use the kit lens that comes with the DSLR or mirrorless camera, Lensbaby offers a comprehensive range of selective-focus lenses that allows for images where the centre may be sharply in focus but everything else around it isn’t. However because the Lensbaby is made from bendable tubing material, it is easy enough to move the point of focus to anywhere else within the picture frame.

Founded in March 2004 by Craig Strong, a wedding photographer and photojournalist in Oregon, Lensbaby made it big, hitting the sweet spot among amateur as well as pro photographers, offering unique views that would otherwise be too difficult to achieve if at all. While software solutions might come close, the Lensbaby effect cannot be directly simulated on any computer. Today Lensbaby offers not just one single product but a full range of interesting options. Now that they have made their lenses compatible with Micro FourThirds, the creative options become virtually endless. One can imagine how things can look with a Lensbaby fitted to an Olympus Pen set up to shoot using any of its creative Art filters. The mind boggles.

LENSBABY LLC 824 SE 16th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97214-2676, United States of America
Websites: http://lensbaby.com
Leading Products: Composer and Composer Pro, Muse, Spark, Scout, creative effect lenses such as Edge 80, Sweet 35, Fisheye, Soft Focus, Double Glass and the Optic Kit, accessories including macro converters, super wide-angle converters, creative aperture disks, step-up/shade rings
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo/Cine) TBA

Metabones

Despite impressive marketing efforts and the fact that they were ‘first’ to the market with their Speed Booster lens adaptors Metabones is also a Hong Kong-based business with a cloaked identity. Like Jackar Optical, there is no mention of where the company originates from. However credit must be given to Metabones for coming up with a lens adaptor that improves aperture performance by 1 f-stop while decreasing the focal length by 0.71X for Micro FourThirds cameras.

Much of the information we were able to extract from the Internet was done in the background based on their web domain and hosting information from which we gathered that a certain Peter Ho and a company called GBI Ltd (or Global Boom International Limited) could be behind all the action.

For whatever that is said and done about its mysterious nature, Metabones is fast becoming a prominent identity in the mirrorless camera market providing their Speed Booster range of adaptors for not only Micro FourThirds but also the Fuji-X and Sony NEX formats in various mount adaptations. In the case of Micro FourThirds for example, Metabones offers the ability to use Leica R, Contax-Yashica C/Y and of course native MFT mount lenses. From their website, it appears that the technology that makes Speed Booster adaptors a reality comes from Caldwell Photographic whose key figure is Brian Caldwell who apparently was the person behind the Micro FourThirds-compatible Coastal Optics 60mm f4.0 UV-VIS-IR APO macro lens where focusing is achieved using visible light for the full spectrum from ultraviolet (UV) to infrared (IR) without any need for correction.

According to their website, Metabones maintains design teams in Japan and Hong Kong but has its own production facilities in mainland China.

GLOBAL BOOM INTERNATION (GBI) LTD. Flat 1101, Wayson Commercial House, 68-70 Lockhart Road, Wanchai 00000, Hong Kong
Websites: www.metabones.com (registered under Peter Ho at camera@gbi-hk.com)
Leading Products: Speed Booster range of lens adaptors for mirrorless platforms, Smart Adaptor (with phase-detection autofocusing), related camera accessories
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo/Cine)

Metabones Speed Booster Micro FourThirds adaptor for C/Y lens mount

Metabones Speed Booster Micro FourThirds adaptor for Leica-R lenses

MX Camera

The big news with MXCamera is their Zhongyi-branded Lens Turbo adaptor. Originally offered only in Sony NEX format, the company has now decided to release it in Micro FourThirds format as well. With the Lens Turbo adaptor, you get 0.726X magnification and an aperture increase of 1 f-stop. The function of the adaptor is the same as what Metabones offers with its Speed Booster range of adaptors except they’re likely to be cheaper.

MXCamera is also the company behind the comprehensive range of leather camera cases and front lens caps under the brand name Gariz, which should be fairly familiar territory for Olympus and Panasonic camera owners.

Unlike Jackar Optical, at least you get to know where MXCamera is from – they freely advertise their address on their website.

MXCAMERA LTD Room 1618-1620, 16/F Park In Commercial Centre, 56 Dundas Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Websites: http://mxcamera.com/mitakon/en/index.html
Leading Products: Camera lenses and accessories, carrying cases, lens adaptors, flash accessories, tripod accessories including ball heads
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo/Cine) Zhongyi Lens Turbo Adaptor (aka Mitakon Lens Turbo Adaptor)

Nauticam

One of Olympus’ inroads in the digital era has been its popularity with the underwater market segment. For whatever reason, there has been no shortage of underwater cases for their DSLR as well as compact cameras. With Micro FourThirds, that reputation continues and has now also included Panasonic.

Nauticam International is yet another Hong Kong based company that has tapped into Micro FourThirds burgeoning presence, offering solid support products. In this case, we’re looking at a comprehensive range of high-quality underwater camera cases and lens ports. Beginning with Sony’s NEX-5 housing, Nauticam has now launched additional ports to suit a selection of Panasonic’s Lumix as well as Olympus’ M.Zuiko Digital lenses with more to follow.

Admittedly we don’t really know much about Nauticam as a company. Other than being based in Hong Kong, some of us believe that their technologies including design and engineering may come from elsewhere including Japan and the U.S.A. and possibly also, Australia. To underline their commitment to quality and their seriousness, one of Nauticam’s underwater housing and white balance dome port has just won the 2012 Red Dot Award for Product Design.

NAUTICAM INTERNATIONAL LIMITED Room 2203, CCT Telecom Building, 11 Wo Shing Street, Fotan, Hong Kong
Websites: www.nauticam.com and www.nauticamusa.com
Leading Products: Underwater camera housings for medium-format, DSLR, compact and mirrorless cameras, lens ports, underwater-related camera accessories including cleaning and lubricating kits, light-mounting systems, viewfinders, port systems, hand straps, bayonet rings, flip dioptre holders, diffusers and others
Micro FourThirds Products
Underwater camera housings and lens ports for the following Micro FourThirds lenses:
M.Zuiko Digital 14.42mm f3.5-5.6
M.Zuiko Digital 9-18mm f4-5.6
Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6
Lumix 14mm f2.5
Lumix 8mm f3.5 Fisheye
Lumix 7-14mm f4.0
Leica 45mm macro

SLR Magic / Noktor

If there ever was a company to match JK Imaging in terms of mysteriousness, this one is it except that they do have products to sell. We don’t even know for sure which of the two is the real company name – SLR Magic (or is it SLRmagic?) or Noktor. From what we can find out, they have two website addresses that display the same contents and details pertaining back to the Noktor lenses. Searching high and low, there are no details about where the company comes from. However we know that SLR Magic is based in Hong Kong but exactly where, no one appears to know – there are no information stated in their websites and Wikipedia as well as Camerapedia reveal nothing about them. Apparently Noktor is registered as a limited liability company in America and could be based in the state of Georgia. Beyond that, no further information exists.

We do know that they have three lenses made for Micro FourThirds users, labelled as Noktor and given the series name of HyperPrime. Of the three, one is for photography use while the other two appear to be cine lenses. The main attraction of Noktor lenses is its ultra-fast optics. At f0.95, there aren’t much competition out there. We are also aware that at least one of these lenses – the 50mm f0.95 – is made in Japan but assembled in Hong Kong.

On March 28 2013, SLR Magic launched their Monster Lens 12-36×50 ED Spotting Scope, which they have also made compatible with Micro FourThirds. The idea is to adapt the scope to be an ultra-telephoto zoom lens with the equivalent coverage of an 840-2520mm lens. Optical brightness is disappointingly low – the company doesn’t quote any figures here but we understand it to be from f16.8 to f50.4, which could be one reason why it doesn’t make it to the marketing gloss.

SLR MAGIC Shop 334, 47-51 Shan Tung Street, Sim City, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
NOKTOR, LLC Georgia, United States of America
Websites: www.slrmagic.com and www.noktor.com
Leading Products: Lenses for 35mm and digital SLR cameras
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo, manual focusing) Noktor HyperPrime 50mm f0.95

Photron

In a brief description, Photron is a Japanese company that owns the record of having the fastest high-speed camera in the world capable of 1080-pixel high resolution and recording at up to 12,500 frames per second (fps). Photron’s high-speed cameras are used for a wide variety of applications including automobile crash testing, high G-force work, product line fault diagnosis and also broadcast work. As such the company is today the world’s leading manufacturer when it comes to ultrahigh-speed digital imaging systems that are reliability-proven and accepted as benchmark for leading research organisations.

Photron’s core advancement base is founded on technologies that centre on computing software, digital circuitry, analogue imaging circuitry, precision mechano-optics and networking. With these, the company is able to provide solutions using imaging and engineering systems as well as medical imaging, professional video and e-solutions. All of these are broadly defined as Photron’s moving image and still image solutions, packaged for a wide variety of industries including general construction, architecture, manufacturing, research and development, education and academia, TV broadcasting and video production houses, medical as well as government agencies.

Photron’s involvement in the Micro FourThirds group isn’t made very public. Even its website does not provide details. However all these may be reasonable considering that Photron’s products are not consumer-oriented; therefore joining Micro FourThirds doesn’t carry much news value. For relevant businesses and government agencies, the company’s involvement in Micro FourThirds might be an eye-opener because this can mean Photron developing a Fastcam-series high-speed camera that does everything that its impressive siblings can do but now offer the luxury of lens interchangeability where one can use any of the Micro FourThirds-compatible lenses from the likes of Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Tokina, Tamron, Sigma, Samyang, Voigtländer and so many others.

PHOTRON LIMITED Fujimi 1-1-8, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0071, Japan
Websites: www.photron.com
Leading Products: Fastcam-series high-speed cameras, Fastcam software solutions, Photron Fastcam Viewer (PFV) and camera control software, Photron Fastcam Analysis (PFA) software for motion analysis
Micro FourThirds Products (Industrial) TBA

Samyang

It’s ironic that Samyang was the last company to make and supply lenses for the FourThirds system when Sigma had already stopped and the format itself was clearly on the decline. What is even more unusual is that Samyang is not Japanese but a Korean firm. However what Samyang started was an amazing trend that has now become a staple feature for Micro FourThirds – manual-focusing lenses. In a day and age of high-tech everything, autofocusing would have been a standard expectation but to instead come out with MF lenses was intriguing at best. Still there they were, on a perch of trailblazing a trend that has become a standard part of Micro FourThirds’ growing range of third-party old-world lenses.

Founded in 1972, Samyang began its lens making business as an OEM supplier, manufacturing lenses that carry other companies’ brands such as Vivitar, Rokinon, Bower and others. They also make quite a number of lenses in T mount configuration. In 2004 they merged with Seikou, a Japanese CCTV optical device manufacturer. So far Samyang’s involvement with Micro FourThirds remains the 7.5mm f3.5 UMC fisheye lens but we expect to see more very soon. Now that the competition has intensified, the Koreans need no encouragement to broaden their offerings.

SAMYANG OPTICS CO. LTD. 123 Jayumuyeok 6-Gil, Masan Hoewon-gu, Changwon, Korea (alternatively, Masan Free Export Zone P.O. Box 340)
Websites: www.syopt.co.kr/eng
Leading Products: Manual-focus prime, prime mirror and zoom lenses in Micro FourThirds as well as DSLR and T mounts
Note: Samyang lenses are also known in various other markets as Rokinon, Walimex and possibly other brand names
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo, manual focusing)
Samyang 7.5mm f3.5 UMC fisheye
Samyang 16mm f2.0 ED AS UMC CS
Samyang 300mm f6.3
Samyang 800mm f8 mirror

Schneider-Kreuznach

Schneider’s intention to join Micro FourThirds was in some ways a surprise mainly because of its tie-up with Samsung. If anything we were expecting the German lens maker to launch lenses for Samsung’s range of mirrorless cameras. Even so we’re seeing Schneider coming into Micro FourThirds to benefit those who use the platform for movie making. Like Zeiss, their cine lenses are highly acclaimed. Schneider after all scored an Oscar for Technical Achievement for their Super-Cinelux motion picture lenses in 2001.

We don’t know if Schneider will produce lenses to suit photographic use in the Micro FourThirds platform. We are however aware that the company’s track record for 35mm format lenses is essentially limited to the earlier days of the M42 screw mount and some compatibility with Leica R and possibly one or two confined for Olympus OM, Nikon, Minolta and Canon. Insofar as the DSLR market, Schneider’s appearance was via Samsung’s involvement, which ended up being quite short lived. From this pretext, it is possible that we won’t be seeing much (if at all) of anything other than cine lenses for Micro FourThirds. So don’t hold your breath.

JOS. SCHNEIDER OPTISCHE WERKE GmbH Ringstraβe 132, 55543 Bad Kreuznach, Deutschland (Postfach 24 63, 55513 Bad Kreuznach)
Websites: www.schneiderkreuznach.com/en/homepage
Leading Products: Small, medium and large-format lenses, motion picture (cine) lenses, digital imaging lenses, copy and macro lenses, enlarger lenses, lenses for mirrorless cameras, television camera lenses, industrial optics, B+W filters, OEM lens maker for Kodak and Samsung digital cameras
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo)
Super-Angulon 14mm f2.0
Xenon 30mm f1.4
Makro-Symmar 60mm f2.4
Micro FourThirds (Cine, manual focusing)
Cine-Xenar range

25mm T2.2
35mm T2.1
50mm T2.0
75mm T2.0
95mm T2.0
PL-Mount Adaptor

Sigma

As one of the earliest adopters of the original FourThirds group, Sigma is probably the closest to the front-line action alongside Olympus and Panasonic. Therefore it was sad to see the company discontinue its line-up of FourThirds lenses when it was clear that the system was invariably going nowhere. With Micro FourThirds coming in as a fitting replacement, Sigma is back but the ramp-up appears measuredly cautious. They needn’t be if they consider the immense potential that this mirrorless system has shown.

Now that Tokina and Tamron have joined, the competition for attention has intensified manifold and we’re certain that Sigma will be releasing more prime and zoom lenses soon. However what we’re especially curious about is whether or not the company will join ranks and release a Micro FourThirds camera body. Since they are not represented in this area, the options remain open although we suspect they will veer towards the APS-C format. With their outstanding sensor technologies Sigma more than most others are in the best seat to do something very special.

SIGMA CORPORATION 2-4-16 Kurigi, Asao-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa 215-8530, Japan
Websites: www.sigma-photo.co.jp/english/
Leading Products: Photographic camera lenses, compact digital cameras, electronic flash units, other optical equipment
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo)
30mm f1.4 DC HSM
30mm f2.8 DN
19mm f2.8 DN
60mm f2.8 DN

SVS-Vistek

Like Photron and Astrodesign, SVS-Vistek is also into industrial application cameras. However this German company specialises in the use of Gigabit Ethernet network protocol – its introduction of the EVO Tracer was actually Micro FourThirds’ first industry camera to make it to the public. Looking a little like a Hasselblad, the 8-megapixel# Tracer is constructed around a robust IP-67 housing and uses the Micro FourThirds lens mount to gain access to a full litany of lenses available from Olympus, Panasonic and others. Aperture and autofocus are fully electronically supported with RS232-based remote lens control via the Ethernet (Dual GigE Vision Data Interface). TrueSense Imaging supplies the imaging sensor, which is either colour or monochrome. SVS-Vistek’s impact on the competitive end of Micro FourThirds is not likely to be substantial but its decision to adopt Micro FourThirds instead of other mirrorless formats is in itself telling enough.

#Available at 1, 2, 4 or 8 megapixels

SVS-VISTEK GmbH Mühlbachstraβe 20, 82229 Seefeld, Obb., Germany
Websites: www.svs-vistek.com
Leading Products: Gigabit-Ethernet area and line scan CCD cameras, machine vision cameras, frame grabbers, vision processors, Compact-Vision systems, imaging library software, sensors, lenses and other accessories
Micro FourThirds Products (Industrial)
SVcam-series

EVO Tracer camera

Tamron

Many of us from the earlier FourThirds group have long awaited the day when Tamron would sign up and count themselves an active participant. We did not see this happen when we so desperately wanted them to but evidently now that they have, on January 26 2012, joined up with the burgeoning Micro FourThirds system, things are suddenly looking up for the whole group. This is because Tamron remains a leading lens manufacturer in the world insofar as third-party providers are concerned. Tamron’s presence will surely intensify competition when it comes to lenses and should spur the others – such as Sigma and Tokina – on to match.

Tamron’s first lens for the Micro FourThirds system is a 14-150mm lens, a compact but very capable zoom lens with a 35mm film equivalent coverage of 28-300mm. With a filter thread size of only 52mm, this is one very small zoom lens despite its 10X-plus zoom. It features one LD (Low Dispersion) glass element, two moulded glass aspheric elements and one hybrid aspheric element. It’s an encouraging start and bound to make Sigma sit up and take notice.

This is what we’re looking for – healthy competition that would spur further growth and development within the format itself and something customers are bound to be excited over. With the market expanding and Tamron playing an active role with more lenses coming on-stream, things look very bright indeed for every adopter of this format.

TAMRON CO., LTD 1385 Hasunuma, Minuma-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama 337-8556, Japan
Websites: www.tamron.co.jp/en
Leading Products: Interchangeable lenses for 35mm and digital SLR cameras including non-reflex type cameras, lenses for camcorders and long-wavelength infrared cameras, optical device units, IP-CCTV camera lenses for surveillance, industrial vision and image processing uses, automotive lenses, test plates, high-precision moulds, injection-moulded parts and components
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo) Tamron 14-150mm f3.5-5.8 Di III VC (Model C001) announced on Jan 29 2013

ViewPLUS

With ViewPLUS joining, the total number of industrial camera suppliers to be represented within the Micro FourThirds group has grown to four. No other mirrorless system boasts such a stout backing.

Similar in some ways to Photron, ViewPLUS is another Japanese manufacturer offering a comprehensive range of high-resolution industrial vision cameras and like the others of its ilk, their contribution to the format is less than what it can draw from it, which is fine. After all these are commercial products not meant for consumer applications but they may depend on the format’s depth of offerings to facilitate their cameras. Lenses, as it so happens, are critical and ViewPLUS enjoys plenty of choices here.

ViewPLUS, INCORPORATED Nibancho Cashew Building, 6F 4-3 Nibancho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0084, Japan
Websites: www.viewplus.co.jp/english.html
Leading Products: High-resolution 4K digital camera systems, integrated multiple stereo vision systems, stereo 3D omnidirectional imaging systems, solutions for link communications and image processing, on-demand live image sensing technologies
Micro FourThirds Products (Industrial) TBA

Zacuto

With cheap labour in emerging economies around the world, “Made in the U.S.A.” has since become a rarity but not with Zacuto. This Chicago-based company has joined the ranks of Micro FourThirds support suppliers with a wide range of specialist equipment for video use and the first camera model they’ve used is Panasonic’s Lumix GH3. With the GH3’s prodigious reputation for video performance, this is not unsurprising.

Zacuto USA has a broad business portfolio. They don’t use design, manufacture and sell their own equipment but they are also into filmmaking and rental services. Established in 2000 and located in Chicago, Illinois, Zacuto is today well known for premium quality and originally-designed equipment and with 53 years of combined film, video and photographic experiences on board via Jens Bogehegn, Steve Weiss and Mandy Rogers, their gear are understandably well known throughout the world.

ZACUTO USA 401 W. Ontario Street, Suite 125, Chicago, Illinois, 60654 United States of America
Websites: www.zacuto.com a
Leading Products: Portable rig case, external electronic viewfinders (EVF), USB focus controllers, finder frame kits, shoulder pads and shooting rigs, grip relocators, viewfinder adaptor plates, Z-rail Z-mounts
Micro FourThirds Products (Photo/Cine)
Lumix GH3 Z-Finder Pro
GH3 Z-Finder Frame Kit
Z-Finder EVF Pro
Blackmagic Camera Rigs
Accessory kits for Panasonic AG-AF100

Zeiss

Zeiss’ presence in the camera industry has not only been long and established but as an elder statesman, they command respect in ways very few can match. This is not only a testament of its towering reputation as a lens maker but also as a camera designer. Although Zeiss is no longer in the business of designing let alone making cameras, its understanding of the industry knows no boundaries or match.

While Zeiss continues to collaborate with Sony on the alpha System’s lens front, it has now cast its attention in the direction of Micro FourThirds with a commitment to compete for the avid cinematographer’s top dollars. To underline its influence, Schneider-Kreuznach signed up for Micro FourThirds hardly days after Zeiss publicly announced their participation.

It doesn’t look likely that Zeiss will provide still photography lenses but for all intents and purposes, they’re probably right – as a business decision, Zeiss likely understands that their lenses in this regard won’t be as saleable as they are in the cinematography market where budgetary constraints are not as evident. Still Micro FourThirds stands to gain. With Zeiss’ enormous footprint in this group, prestige and exclusivity have both gained a few more notches along the way and that’s all very good for the prospects of the format in becoming the most pervasive mirrorless system in the market.

CARL ZEISS AG GmbH Carl-Zeiss-Strasse 22, 73447 Oberkochen, Germany
Websites: www.zeiss.de/en
Leading Products: Optical products for microscopy, medical technology applications, semiconductor use, industry metrology, camera lenses, visioncare products including sports opto-electronics
Micro FourThirds Products (Cine, manual focusing)

Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 range
15mm T2.9
18mm T3.6
21mm T2.9
25mm T2.9
25mm T2.1
28mm T2.1
35mm T1.5
35mm T2.1
50mm T1.5
50mm T2.1 Makro
50mm T2.1
85mm T1.5
85mm T2.1
100mm T2.1 CF
135mm T2.1
Compact Zoom CZ.2 range CZ.2
70-200mm T2.9

Non-Documented Vendors

As Micro FourThirds becomes even more pervasive not just within the mirrorless community but the whole market at large, the vendor coverage will increase even more so. Right now the momentum is already evident and in the vastness of accessories for DSLR cameras in general, Micro FourThirds is already very well represented. This can be evidenced by the vastly different countries that the accessories originate from. From China to former Eastern Bloc countries, the diverse range is encouraging and in many ways, draws parallel with the varied types of companies signing up to join the Micro FourThirds group.

Just in the past three years alone, the accessories beyond lenses and major camera accessories have continued to emerge. They include the following:

Battery grips

Alternative battery grips aren’t many to choose from other than the one made for the E-M5 by Olympus themselves but they’re not only available but there are others designed for certain Pen models that aren’t part of the original accessory offerings. It seems that a little-known Chinese outfit has them available for many other makes and models and Olympus is amongst them.

Battery packs and chargers

A lot of these are available online that apparently will work with the Pens and the E-M5. However not all of them work in exactly the same way as Olympus’ original battery packs (and chargers) and that’s where things get a little tricky. The reasons behind this are that firstly not all third-party batteries carry the same capacity and secondly they don’t possess the same smart circuitry.

As for the second reason, there is cause for concern because that means possible danger or incompatibility might not be too far away – in other words, the battery might not work accordingly with the original charger. Upon full charge, the charger might not automatically stop operating, meaning it can over-charge, which is unsafe. Having said all that, it is possible to find good third-party batteries and chargers although you’ll have to do a bit of online research to know which ones to avoid.

Camera body cases and front snoots

Better-designed cases allow the body portion to be separate from the front snoot. This makes sense because the body doesn’t change so long as your camera remains the same although the front snoot can be different depending on the lens you wish to mount on the body.

Camera cases

The word ‘case’ is often used to cover the body and the lens. In most instances, the ‘standard’ case is used for the camera with a standard zoom lens. Most cases these days are no longer made from genuine leather insofar as what camera manufacturers are offering if they were supplied together with the camera kit. Third-party vendors are now offering a far wider range of choices that do include not just fashionable alternatives but premium selections of real leather cases.

Lens and body caps

These include caps for the camera body without lens as well as front and rear caps for the lenses. Although the obvious thing to do in the event of a loss is to buy it back from the camera manufacturer, third-party vendors are making them available at cheaper prices and with their own unique custom designs.

A body cap is the cap that covers the camera’s lens mount for storage purposes. The rear lens cap covers the back of the lens when not in use while the front lens cap sizes share the same range of sizes as filters.

Dedicated electronic flashes and accessories

While we haven’t seen a rush of third-party electronic flash units that are compatible with either Olympus or Panasonic mirrorless cameras, we believe this will somehow take off. There are still quite a number of leading brands in this segment including Metz, Nissin, Novoflex, Soligor, Starblitz, Sunpak, Vivitar and others.

Of these Metz flash systems is easily the most dominant, thanks to their SCA Adaptor concept. Now in its fourth decade, the SCA Adaptor system means that virtually every flash model that Metz has available can be made compatible for Micro FourThirds applications. With the compatibility of the SCA3202 adaptor, any Olympus, Panasonic including Leica FourThirds and Micro FourThirds cameras will match perfectly. With this combination, there are at least six different Metz flash units that would work flawlessly. They include the Mecablitz 24AF-1, 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 52AF-1 and 58AF-1 as well as the SCA-based 45CL-4 and 76MZ-5 bracket flash units.

Five models from Sunpak will also work although you do not enjoy the level of auto compatibility that Metz has with any of the Micro FourThirds cameras. All of these work on the conventional thyristor-based auto modes including the auto16R pro ring flash, PF20XD pocket flash, G-Flash underwater unit, Remote Lite II slave-controlled off-camera flash and the auto36SR bounce-swivel flash. At least a few of these have apparently been discontinued also. Despite the less-than-ideal support, there is nothing stopping Sunpak from finally releasing models to suit Micro FourThirds. In fact we believe this will happen fairly soon as more flash unit makers gear up to take advantage of its growing popularity.

The same thing can be said of major flash accessory makers like Quantum who famously makes not only remote heavy-duty power packs but also their own branded flash units. If you choose carefully, you’ll discover that many of its products work with Micro FourThirds cameras also. For example with the right QTTL adaptor, Quantum’s QFlash QFT5d-R or QFX5d-R should work very well in conjunction with its range of powerful Quantum Turbo battery packs, which are capable of up to 1,050 full discharges and a recycling time of 1.0 second in full-power mode.

Filters

Traditional ring filters that fit on to the front of the lens are quickly going out of fashion these days. With post-processing software manipulations and in-camera filter effects – such as the case with Olympus’ creative Art filters – these are no longer as popular as they used to be. However the ‘basic’ Skylight or UV filter is still a useful proposition if only to offer physical protection for the lens in terms of minor knocks and impact not to mention accidental smudging and dirt.

There are many filter brands available still. Big names like B+W (now part of Schneider-Kreuznach), Hoya, Cokin (now part of Kenko-Tokina) and Kenko are around and in plentiful supply. Of course if you’re on a tighter budget, Kenko would make more sense (rather than B+W).

Gadget bags

Gadget bags used to be humongous and they come in all sorts of sizes from inconveniently big to embarrassingly big. Now that mirrorless cameras have become ubiquitous, many are now offering brand new ranges of much smaller and handier type gadget bags that play to the strengths of their smallness. Therefore the once-popular shoulder sling bags have returned albeit even smaller than the days of the 35mm film SLR cameras.

Many brands are now in contention and virtually every one of them offers the shoulder sling bag design and not so much on the backpack types. This is because mirrorless cameras are not ungainly enough to demand them but if you still prefer them, we’re sure you can find one that suits your needs. After all you might have in mind a bag to fit multiple Micro FourThirds cameras and a plethora of lenses and other knickknacks.

Screen protectors

These are virtually everywhere. And they need not be specifically compatible to Micro FourThirds cameras. So long as it’s the right fitting size, it’s usable. Of course there are good ones and not-so-good ones to choose from. If you do a bit of homework and work within your budget, you’ll get a good screen protector that works well for you.

Shoulder straps

Olympus appears to have quite a collection of different straps for their Pen models within their system offerings but there are plentiful out there again in the market. From fabric to heavy-duty canvas to leather, from thin to wide, from normal to fully padded ones, there are all sorts of straps you can choose from.

photo/kl/mft_history9.txt · Last modified: 2014/06/09 11:26 by gary1