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Olympus Four Thirds dSLR system


  • digital SLR system mainly promoted by Olympus based on the Four Thirds consortium standards
  • this system has now been replaced by Micro Four Thirds system
  • sensors have 4:3 aspect ratio (instead of 3:2 used by film and most other dSLR cameras) and have a 2x crop factor compared with 35mm full frame cameras.
  • the smaller sensor allows potentially smaller lenses with high optical quality from edge-to-edge of the image frame.
  • the Four Thirds systems is reknown for the superb optics of their lenses, even the kit lenses were a cut above other manufacturer's equivalents.
  • many other camera lenses can be adapted for use in manual focus mode only including:
  • the following camera lenses CANNOT be adapted:
    • Canon EOS
    • Canon FD
    • 35mm rangefinder lenses such as Leica M

camera bodies

  • Olympus number their cameras:
    • E-x = their semi-pro weather-proofed bodies
    • E-x0 = their mid-level non-weather-proof bodies
    • E-xxx = their entry level bodies with pentamirrors instead of pentaprism finders.
  • all Olympus E series cameras have built-in image stabilisation except older models: E4xx, E3xx, E500, and the E-1
    • Sony and Pentax have followed suit with their dSLRs but Canon, Nikon and Panasonic do not offer it.
  • models announced late 2007 onwards (including E-3, E420/450/520/620/30 and E-5) support remote TTL flash when used with flashes with R suffix in their model number (eg. FL-36R, FL-50R)
  • Olympus pioneered the sensor dust removal system and still has the most effective method available (also licensed to Panasonic)
  • Olympus pioneered the Live View LCD in dSLRs
  • Olympus were the first to introduce in-camera “ART” filters for jpeg effects

a brief timeline of the history of the Four Thirds system

  • with the rapid advances being made in digital technologies in the late 1990's, Olympus was one of the first of the major camera manufacturers to decide to cease production of, and support for their 35mm film system - the Olympus OM system
  • in 1999, Katsuhiro Takada, an Olympus researcher was tasked with deciding upon the optimum standard for digital SLR cameras
  • unlike Canon EOS camera system and Nikon F dSLR system, Olympus had not yet fully realised the capabilities of the new AF systems and decided it was time to break with it's old lens mount and create a new system optimised around a relatively more cost effective cropped sensor size - the Four Thirds sensor which they believed would be optimum compromise in cost, size and image quality for digital cameras, particularly at a time when full frame sensors were very expensive.
  • in 2003, they created an “open standards” Four Thirds consortium with Kodak, Sanyo and Fuijifilm signing up initially and then Panasonic, Leica and Sigma.
  • a major aspect of the marketing by Olympus was that they would be creating high quality “telecentric” designed lenses which would allow optimum image quality when interacting with digital sensors rather than the traditional film designed lenses as used by Canon and Nikon. Indeed, one of the main reasons for buying into this system is to access the best lenses designed for cropped sensor dSLRs - significantly better than the APS-C lenses by Canon or the DX lenses for Nikon.
  • before Olympus entered the prosumer dSLR market with its E300, Olympus had steadily evolved its digital technologies and developed a reputation for some lovely fixed lens digital cameras targeting prosumers such as:
    • Olympus D-300L - Olympus' 1st digital cameras, announced in Sept 1996. 0.8mp, optical viewfinder, f/2.8 36mm fixed lens. The cheaper D200L was the same but had 0.3mp sensor!
    • Olympus C-2500L - the 1st digital Olympus made with a reasonable resolution - 2.3mp sensor, 3x zoom, optical viewfinder - announced March 1999 - this was the 1st digital camera I ever used regularly.
    • Olympus E-100RS - announced Aug 2000, 1.3mp fixed lens f/2.8 10x zoom with CD-AF and EVF, shutter to 1/10,000th sec and 15fps, TIFF/JPEG no RAW. See
    • Olympus E-10 - the 1st 4mp camera available, produced in 2001 with a fixed 4x f/2.0-2.4 35-140mm zoom, 4x crop sensor, and optical TTL viewfinder courtesy of a split beam, see
    • Olympus E-20 - 5mp version of the E-10 announced in Jan 2002, support for 1Gb microdrives as well as 320Mb CF, and added a progressive scan mode which allowed shutter speeds to 1/18,000th sec and 4.5fps burst (instead of only 1/640th at 3fps burst as with E-10 which only had interlaced scan mode), automatic dark frame noise reduction, pixel mapping and added a flip out LCD
    • Olympus C5050 - a lovely optical viewfinder 5mp camera with 5x crop sensor and a wide aperture f/1.8-2.6 3x zoom lens and flip out LCD, announced in 2002 - see
    • Olympus C8080WZ camera - an EVF-based camera with larger 4x crop sensor with beautifully matched lens - the best of the 8mp prosumer digitals of 2004 with its superb 28-140mm f/2.4-3.5 lens, flip out LCD and many accessories

Olympus E-1

  • the 1st Four Thirds dSLR and built by Olympus with professional build quality and functionality including 100% frame coverage of its pentaprism viewfinder and weatherproofed metal body to match the pro level weatherproofed lenses.
  • announced in June 2003
  • used a much loved 3fps 5mp CCD Kodak sensor and introduced the now famed Olympus “jpeg colours” which still are regarded as among the best if not the best in the competition.
  • introduced the world's 1st sensor dust removal system (SSWF) which is still perhaps the most effective system available and is included on EVERY Olympus dSLR and Micro Four Thirds system camera since
  • 1.8“ 134K pixel fixed LCD screen
  • SuperFP HSS flash
  • new digital TTL flash (not compatible with the OM analog TTL flash)
  • external white balance sensor
  • CF memory cards
  • no built-in flash
  • 660g body only

Olympus E-300

  • Olympus' 1st consumer level dSLR was announced in 2004
  • 2.5fps 8mp Kodak sensor
  • unusual 94% FOV Optical Porro Finder and resultant atypical body styling which was to be the precursor to the unique E-330
  • affordable consumer kit lenses
  • ISO 100-400 with expansion to 1600 possible
  • built-in flash
  • 1.8” 134K pixel fixed LCD

Olympus E-500 (Evolt 500)

  • Olympus' 2nd consumer level dSLR was announced in Sept 2005
  • the world's lightest and smallest dSLR at time of release
  • 2.5fps 8mp Kodak sensor
  • 2.5“ 215K pixels fixed LCD
  • highlight and shadow-based spot metering functions
  • 'One-Touch WB' function that allows a photographer to target a white object and thereby immediately set the correct white balance for the shooting environment
  • dual slots for CF and xD cards
  • built-in popup flash GN 13m at ISO 100
  • 435g, 129.5 x 94.5 x 66mm

Panasonic DMC-L1

  • Panasonic's 1st dSLR was designed by Makoto Nakamura and produced in 2005 but was priced too high for general acceptance
  • matched with Leica's 1st digital lens (which was made with Panasonic) - the Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 ASPH lens

Leica Digilux 3

  • Leica's 1st dSLR was announced in Sept 2006 (actually just a re-badged Panasonic DMC-L1) but was priced too high for general acceptance and it was to be their only Four Thirds dSLR
  • matched with Leica's 1st digital lens (which was made with Panasonic) - the Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 ASPH lens

Olympus E-330

  • announced in Jan 2006, this dSLR was based on the Porro Finder styling of the E-300 but finally made use of it by adding a world 1st - optional full time Live View mode with rapid autofocus without having to put the mirror up courtesy of a secondary image sensor in the viewfinder housing.
  • the 95% FOV viewfinder was dimmer than usual due to the design and this design was abandoned by Olympus only to be taken up by Sony a few years later.
  • world 1st dSLR with tiltable LCD screen which made great use of this live view mode with rapid AF
  • also possible to use Live View with mirror flipped up for 100% FOV but no AF in this mode.
  • 7.9 Megapixel NMOS ‘Live MOS’ sensor
  • 2.5” 215K pixel flip out LCD
  • 539g, 140 x 87 x 72 mm
  • this was my 1st dSLR and I loved it - except for the dim viewfinder, issues with image banding in shadow areas and it was a little ugly

Olympus E-510

  • announced in March 2007, this is the world's 1st dSLR with built-in sensor-based image stabilisation and although it didn't have the full time Live View of the E330 nor the tilt out LCD, but it had a traditional brighter Pentamirror and Live View mode when mirror flipped up which allowed for magnified manual focus and this could be assisted with having the IS activated via a dedicated button.
  • 3fps 10mp Panasonic Live MOS sensor
  • 3 point AF
  • 2.5“ 215K fixed LCD, built-in flash
  • 460g, 136 x 92 x 68 mm
  • the new features were so innovative and would support use of all my legacy manual focus lenses brilliantly that I bought this model and used it in preference to my bigger, heavier, more expensive Canon 1D Mark III digital SLR on my travels.

various consumer models derived from the E-510

  • E-400 - as for E-510 but smaller, lighter, less features, no IS, or Live View but was the smallest, lightest dSLR in the world
  • E-410 - as for E-400 but added Live View, larger buffer (7 RAW burst instead of 5, and unlimited jpeg burst at 3fps)
  • E-420 - 2008 model as for E-410 but adds wireless TTL flash support
  • E-450 - 2009 model - essentially identical to the E-420 apart from the addition of 3 Art Filters, a new processor and an improved LCD display.
  • E-520 - as for E-510 but adds wireless TTL flash support, ART filters
  • E-620 - early 2009 model - improved version of E-520; 4fps 13mp, IS, swivel LCD, 7 point AF
  • E-600 - late 2009 model - budget version of E-620 w/o illuminated rear controls and fewer Art filters;

Olympus E-3

  • the long awaited pro level dSLR was announced in Oct 2007 to replace the E-1
  • world's 1st weatherproofed dSLR with swivel and rotate LCD screen
  • 100% FOV bright pentaprism viewfinder
  • 5fps 10mp CMOS sensor
  • 11pt cross-type AF
  • 2.5” 230K pixel swivel LCD
  • new SWD AF compatibility
  • TruPic III processor
  • Live View but no CD-AF
  • built-in flash, flash sync 1/250th sec, shutter speed up to 1/8000th sec, external WB sensor
  • interchangeable focus screens - which can only be installed by Olympus Service Departments
  • 800g, 142 × 116 × 75mm

Olympus E-30

  • mid-range dSLR with most of the features of the E-3 but not weatherproofed, and plastic not metal body,12mp sensor, larger 2.7“ swivel LCD screen, and adds CD-AF (including Face Detection) in Live View when used with new CD-AF capable lenses, plus 6 Art Filters, 16 Scene modes, AF microcalibration, digital level gauge, vertical panning mode to IS (IS3) and multi-exposure modes.
  • 2008 model designed to fit between the E-520 and E-3 in the product range
  • 5fps 12mp
  • 730g, 142 x 108 x 75 mm (5.6 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)

Olympus PEN Micro Four Thirds series

  • in June 2009, following the lead of Panasonic, Olympus entered into Micro Four Thirds system which was clearly becoming a winner, finally allowing compact cameras and lenses to be created using the same sized sensors.
  • this would signal a dramatic change in direction for Olympus and Panasonic, as Panasonic exited the Four Thirds market totally, while Olympus appears to have decided that Micro Four Thirds would replace the consumer end of the Four Thirds market.
  • in 2011, they surprised the world by creating the world's fastest AF system - and using CD-AF to beat even the fastest phase detect AF systems in pro Canon and Nikon dSLRs!

Olympus E-5

  • 2010 model - the current semi-pro weather-proofed model
  • 5fps 12.3mp sensor, TruPic V+ processor with improved image quality
  • rotatable, swivel LCD
  • 150,000 frame shutter rating
  • finally, the xD card slot replaced with SD card slot to use as well as the old CF slot.
  • their 1st dSLR with HD video - albeit only at 30fps 720p but one can use the Art Filters
  • similar to E-3 but adds the new features of the E-30 plus HD video, 3” 920K swivel LCD screen, IS improved to 5EV, faster CD-AF in Live View, 10 Art Filters, ISO limit increased to 6400, level gauge in viewfinder, multi-exposure, i-enhance, 7 frame AEB

Olympus OM-D Micro Four Thirds series

internet resources for Four Thirds

photo/fourthirds.txt · Last modified: 2016/08/11 16:01 by gary1

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