Perhaps Nikon is worried that Micro Four Thirds is becoming the iPOD of the photography world

Written by Gary on October 29th, 2009

If rumors of new patents by Nikon are true, it would seem that Nikon is rushing to get a competitor system out to try and be even smaller than the Micro Four Thirds camera system which has been taking the photographic world by storm.

The rumours suggest that Nikon may be working on Micro Four Thirds like camera system but with an even smaller sensor – 17mm diameter compared with MFT’s 21mm diameter, which would give it an effective 2.5x crop factor compared to a full frame 35mm sensor (MFT is 2x crop factor).

It would also seem that they are aiming this at the camcorder marketplace by apparently incorporating a lens zoom rocker on the camera just like on point and shoots and camcorders but which is not yet available on MFT or larger dSLR cameras.

The rumours suggest Nikon is initially looking at the following lenses in 35mm terms:

  • 35mm f/2.8
  • 45mm f/1.4
  • 22-105mm f/2.8-5.6
  • 26-270mm f/2.8-5.9
  • 75-270mm f/4.0-5.6

Such a camera could theoretically use almost any lenses ever made in manual focus, including Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds, and presumably, Nikon would make a fully compatible adapter for their F mount full frame and DX lenses – although these would almost certainly not AF during video nor would they be able to zoom using the camera rocker switch. Furthermore, the 2.5x crop factor makes them much less usable unless you are shooting super telephoto.

These rumours are only for patents, and thus Nikon would still have a long way to go in actually producing a marketable product (perhaps late 2010 or 2011), and given their lack lustre and rather under-whelming performance in producing point and shoot cameras to date, and their very average movie mode functionality in their new dSLRs, they have much to do to make a competitive product, and even then, the smaller sensor will mean more noise at high ISO, less dynamic range and more DOF than even that of the MFT cameras.

Personally, I think they have left their run a bit too late, and the smaller sensor will give lower quality, still not be truly pocketable and perhaps too small for larger hands, so the system would mainly be of interest to those with Nikon gear wanting a smaller 2nd camera which is compatible with their lenses and flashes, and to those point and shoot photographers wanting something a bit better than what they have but smaller than MFT.

The 2x crop factor of FT and MFT seems to me to be a perfect compromise on image quality and size. I think anything bigger or smaller adversely impacts either factor.

The 2x crop sensor of the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds sensor makes it tough getting your portraits to pop out from the background, and you must resort to using the 50mm f/2 macro or 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens to achieve this. A 2.5x crop sensor camera will have an even harder time creating nice portraits, and none of the lenses listed above would be adequate as it would require a native focal length of 40-50mm f/1.4 (note the 40mm f/1.4 listed above is in 35mm terms, it’s actual focal length is 18.4mm, and in 35mm DOF terms these would equate to a 40mm f/3.5 lens – great for street photography but not for portraits).

Interesting times indeed, and competition is nearly always good for the consumer.


2 Comments so far ↓

  1. John C says:

    The Nikon patents are no rumors: they are available from the U.S. patent web site. Just follow the links and read yourself.

  2. admin says:

    Sounds like they are the deal, although does not mean Nikon will go ahead with them.