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Micro Four Thirds system
The Micro Four Thirds system is a revolutionary digital hybrid camera system which combines compact size, ease of use and movie mode functionality of the digital point and shoots with the larger sensor (and thus higher image quality and shallower depth of field) and interchangeable lens capability of digital SLRs.
It achieves this by removing the mirror of the SLRs, and is only possible with the rapid technologic changes that have dramatically improved contrast detect AF functionality on par with entry level dSLR AF speed, while electronic viewfinder technology has also improved.
It’s short lens flange to sensor distance (20mm compared with 40mm on Olympus Four Thirds dSLR system) means that super wide angle lenses can be made much smaller (see the 7-14mm zooms here) and one can adapt almost ANY lens every made on it, including Leica M, Leica R, Olympus Pen, Olympus OM, Canon FD, Nikon F, Minolta, Pentax K, Hasselblad, Pentax 6×7, and even Canon EOS lenses can be used with aperture control and some AF!
Focal reducer adapters allow full frame lenses to be used with only 1.4x crop instead of 2x crop and you gain 1 stop more aperture plus improved image quality.
The system is thus THE MOST ADAPTABLE camera system available in terms of legacy lenses – however, they will generally only be able to be used in manual focus, and in 35mm terms, the sensor gives a 2x crop factor so that the angle of view of a 50mm lens will be similar to that of a 100mm on a 35mm film camera.
The system is by far the most mature of the mirrorless camera systems with a multitude of excellent lenses and camera bodies to choose from - see the Olympus OM-D system and how to make the most of it for more tips and ideas on how to use the Olympus cameras.
In June 2020, Olympus announced it has sold its Imaging Division to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) who plan to restructure and continue development of the camera division.
my current preferred BASIC kit for most people
- a kit zoom lens for daytime outdoors use (your choice 10x zoom or 3x zoom lenses but some may very reasonably decide to save money and not get a zoom lens!)
- Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens ($340) or the Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 lens or Olympus m.ZD 25mm f/1.8 standard lens for parties, indoors, night street photos, etc
- Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens ($399) for portraits, indoor use, art galleries, etc
- Godox flash (or the cheaper FL-36R but slower recycle time) for nice party candid shots by using bounce flash off a wall or ceiling - if you don't get flash like this, indoor party shots will be difficult to achieve nice results.
- circular polarising filter for each lens for nice blue skies, forest and waterfall shots.
- UV protection filter for each lens
- Cokin A ND gradient filter if you want nice moody landscape shots
- compact but sturdy and light tripod for flowing water shots eg. waterfalls, beach at dusk, etc
- the awesome Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II provides much better AF for fast moving subjects
which camera to buy
which lenses to buy
- this comes down to personal needs and budget, the following are my suggestions for most people - for a more complete list, see a catalogue of Micro Four Thirds lenses
- if you will be mainly using Panasonic cameras, then you may be best to favour Panasonic lenses as:
- many have optical image stabiliser and most Panasonic cameras do not have in-built IS
- the newer cameras such as the GH4 offer faster AF tracking but only with Panasonic lenses at this stage
- if you will be mainly using Olympus cameras, then perhaps favour Olympus lenses as:
- some Panasonic lenses can be quirky on Olympus cameras
- Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens has banding on ISO 1600 and higher
- Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH lenses tends to have noisy diaphragm blade actions when not actually shooting
- some Panasonic lenses have an aperture ring and this only works on Panasonic cameras (Olympus cameras will disable it)
AF kit zoom lenses
- as a travel, walkaround lens, I love my Panasonic 14-140mm OIS HD 10x zoom lens, but it is a touch big and heavy.
- for a compact system, check out Panasonic's premium 3x zoom lenses - see here
- for the budget minded:
- Panasonic's twin lens kit 14-42mm and 45-200mm
- Olympus' collapsible 14-42mm lens but no OIS so don't get it for a Panasonic body
- Olympus 14-150mm 10x zoom but no OIS so don't get it for a Panasonic body
- Panasonic and Olympus also have pro quality constant f/2.8 zoom lenses:
- the PRO versions are higher quality, heavier, bigger, better in low light and weatherproof (eg. Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro weatherproof lens)
special purpose lenses
- the kit lenses are great when you don't know what you will be taking photos of, and only want to carry one lens, but they are not so good when light gets low or you are indoors, and they are not great if you really want to blur the background.
- the Micro Four Thirds cameras really perform when you use a nice wide aperture lens, as not only do you get some background blurring, but you don't have to resort to high ISO and noisy images.
my must have lenses
- this is the best compact lens for parties and is also great for low light conditions, environmental portraits, etc
if you have the money
- fantastic shallow depth of field medium telephoto, great for portraits, fashion, still life, sports, concerts, etc.
- relatively inexpensive portrait and low light lens
- a beautiful, compact, light, wide aperture wide angle lens with great manual focus control and low light capability, great for street photography, landscapes, travel, bushwalking, etc
- a macro lens:
- this awesome lens makes macro work almost fun!
- see some examples by Danny Young of what can be achieved by adding a Raynox DCR-250 onto a Panasonic Lumix 45-200mm kit zoom on a Micro Four Thirds system - not bad at all!
- if ultrawide creative imagery is your thing, then this is a very nice, albeit expensive lens.
if you don't mind manual focus, these are my favorite extra lenses on a budget
- I love this lens on my GH-1 and at under $US300 on Amazon.com, it is a bargain for what you are getting!
- gives almost identical imagery as my Canon 135mm f/2.0L lens on my Canon 1D Mark III but at a quarter of the price and weight!
- preferably get the Nikon mount version, as then it can be adapted to nearly any camera, and if you use it on a Canon dSLR with an AF-confirm adapter, you get AF confirmation.
- Olympus OM 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8:
- nice compact lens giving a very usable, bright 100mm portrait and low light lens
- a reasonable compromise if you can't afford the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Micro Four Thirds lens.
- pick one up on Ebay for about $50
- Olympus OM 50mm f/3.5 macro:
- nice macro lens giving great 1:1 macro at a bargain price
- pick one up on Ebay for $100-200
- Olympus OM 100mm f/2.8:
- nice compact lens giving a very usable, bright 200mm telephoto
- you probably won't use this one if you get the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4
- pick one up on Ebay for $100-200
- Olympus OM 135mm f/2.8:
- nice compact lens giving a very usable, bright 270mm telephoto - perhaps the longest I would like to try to manually focus hand held on these cameras
- pick one up on Ebay for $100-200
Micro Four Thirds video cameras
- Panasonic in addition to their GH series of cameras, have produced cameras primarily designed for high quality HD video.
- AstroDesign have signed up with Micro Four Thirds and this offers the system a 4K 60p high end video camera
- Black Magic Cinema have a 4K RAW video camera in Micro Four Thirds mount but currently no AF or IS