The very exciting future of Micro Four Thirds cameras – native field of view and SWD AF for Olympus OM lenses as well??

Written by Gary on February 28th, 2010

Despite all the other cameras that I own, including dSLRs such as Canon 1D Mark III, Olympus E-510, Olympus E-330, it is the unique characteristics of design of the Micro Four Thirds which has me, and much of the photographic world truly excited.

It has sufficient image quality to address the needs of most photographers, indeed, the DxO tests of the Panasonic GH-1 showed it to have less image noise and more dynamic range at ALL ISO levels than the new Canon APS-C dSLRs – the Canon 550D and Canon 7D.

The system now has enough lenses and bodies and versatility that there should be a reasonable selection of a compact, light, relativley quiet and non-intrusive high image quality camera kit which you can take anywhere and also do HD video, and in the case of the GH-1 and its excellent HD kit lens, you get the only continuous AF HD video capability out there.

One of the beauties of its design is it very short lens mount flange to sensor distance which not only allows use of almost any legacy lens ever made to be used on it such as Leica M rangefinder, Olympus Pen half-frame, and ANY 35mm film or digital lens – albeit in manual focus, but it’s design allows the fastest access to accurate manual focus currently available.

Furthermore, when used on Olympus bodies, all these lenses can be image stabilised and used at up to ISO 1600 with good image quality – something 35mm film photographers could only ever have dream’t about.

Not only that, but you can now get adapters which will also convert nearly ALL those 35mm lenses into tilt and shift lenses for awesome versatility unheard of before, and now Olympus has also filed a patent to create a 0.5x wide angle converter for OM lenses so that they can be used at their native field of view and aperture, thus an OM 21mm f/3.5 lens when currently used on a M43 camera has a field of view of a 42mm lens, while letting in the equivalent light of a f/3.5 lens and having a depth of field similar to a 42mm f/7 lens, this new wide angle adapter means that this lens will once again have a field of view of 21mm lens and a depth of field of a 21mm f/3.5 but an exposure capability of an f/1.7 lens, and be image stabilised.

Not only that, but if I am reading this patent correctly, it will convert ALL Olympus OM legacy lenses back to their native field of view and depth of field and with twice the brightness for shorter exposures AND adds SWD autofocus capability to all of them!

Now wouldn’t that be awesome!

And of course, you can extend this versatility to your creative needs by using the nice Art Filters, and do all this even in HD video with full manual exposure control if you wish.

BUT, this is only the beginning of this revolution!!

The next Panasonic GH-2 is likely to have high end HD video capability, but more importantly, the first global silent digital shutter which has the potential to radically change everything:

  • at last we will have a totally silent high image quality camera for wedding ceremonies, classical music concerts, etc
  • the rolling shutter jello effect in videos on panning will disappear totally
  • potential for much faster burst rates (probably in the GH-3) – perhaps up to 60fps if there is adequate buffer and focus is managed
  • sensor design will be able to be radically different, such that even in the GH-2 it is rumoured that it will have a dual exposure system such that green pixels will be exposed 4x longer to give sensitivity of a full frame dSLR
  • this could be further extended so that the sensor could automatically detect areas of highlights and dark shadows and adjust exposure accordingly in each area to improve shadow detail and prevent blown highlights.
  • they could even potentially design it to give different exposures to the foreground subject to further separate subject from the background regions.

We can expect the silent players from the Four Thirds consortium to consider re-entering the arena now that it is so profitable, and this may give us Micro Four Third camera bodies with totally different sensor designs:

  • Kodak sensors
  • Fujifilm DDR sensors
  • Sigma Foveon sensors
  • sensors optimised for infrared photography

With Panasonic now producing 3D televisions, surely, it won’t be long before they produce a Micro Four Thirds camera for 3D still and video capture to provide content for it – the small M43 size means a stereo camera lens system would still not be too onerous in size.

The amazing progress in electronic view finder technology is one area that has really allowed this type of camera to be possible, but this will only get better and more creative – inevitably we will get wireless viewfinders so that we can operate the camera remotely and see in real time exactly what the sensor is seeing.

The achille’s heel of mirror-less systems has been autofocus speed, but current models are as fast if not faster and more versatile than entry level dSLRs already – as electronics and algorithms improve, they can only get faster.

There is now little point in buying entry level dSLR’s – AF speed is the same, viewfinder on these dSLRs tends to be much worse than the EVF’s on the GH-1 and E-P2, image quality is similar, but they are bigger, heavier, noisier and more intrusive – so why bother with them?

Even Olympus officials are suggesting that all entry level Olympus dSLRs will be mirror-less by 2012 leaving only high-end semi-pro and pro models with prisms – the pentamirror will be banished, and we will see the Four Thirds system become part of the Micro Four Thirds system with full interchangeability of lenses, albeit via adapters, but with better live view AF performance than we have now.

I would also expect that Canon will replace some of their entry level dSLRs with mirror-less versions using the same EF-S mount but still only providing their largely second-rate EF-S lenses – they never really got serious about providing pro quality lenses to the EF-S mount, but will they bite the bullet and add the extra mount pins to make fast CDAF possible, and remake all their EF-S lenses optimised for CDAF?

Nikon will follow suit, but they are also likely to add a new even smaller version with a 2.5x crop sensor with new lens system – a good idea but the even smaller sensor will make it even harder to get shallow depth of field.

Just as 35mm film cameras displaced medium format film, Micro Four Thirds will displace entry level cropped sensor dSLRs and high end point and shoot cameras.

Sure there will be hoards of APS-C sized mirror-less systems – but why would you bother with these when their lenses will be inevitably bigger, will not be as versatile (unable to use Leica M lenses, unable to use tilt-shift adapters, unable to add silent AF crop-adjusted adapters), will have minimal if any image quality advantage, and in many cases, will not have pro quality AF lenses available to use as well?

See also Zone-10’s take on the M43 revolution, and a quote from them:

“In 1972 the Olympus OM-1 rewrote the rules for SLR cameras. 38 years on, Micro FourThirds could do even much more than that.”

One of the biggest barriers in getting into photography ever since AF lenses took over the world, has been the cost of these lenses.

Micro Four Thirds will soon allow more cost effective bodies (no need for AF sensors, moving shutters or prisms), plus the ability to use and accurately manual focus, cheap old legacy lenses, but not only that, it appears you just need the one AF adapter and they not only will become image stabilised and AF lenses  – this will make such a high image quality and versatile system finally accessible for the more financially challenged sectors.

The momentum is with Micro Four Thirds – let the force be with you 🙂

Sorry Canon and Nikon, you have misjudged this one from left field!


7 Comments so far ↓

  1. Gabi says:

    Hi Gary,
    The one concern I have about buying a M43 (specifically the Olympus E-PL1) is whether or not my Radio Poppers JrX will damage (or be damaged) by pairing them. Not knowing much about electronics, I ask you, is this a valid concern?

  2. admin says:

    Not a problem with using Radiopopper JrX on a micro Four thirds.

    see JRx manual:

    “Compatible Hardware:
    The JrX System has been tested and found to be compatible with the following flash hardware.
    May be used with any camera with a standard hotshoe mount.”

    The main circuit problems have been with old flashes with very high trigger voltages being directly connected to a camera PC sync or hotshoe.

    A Jrx means there is no physical connection between your camera and a flash, and the JrX as indicated above will not cause an issue.

  3. Gabi says:


    Thanks! I got the sense that circuit-related problems came from, just as you say, older flashed.

    Ironically, I had emailed RP about using the JrX with a M43 and they responded, “Because we have not extended our compatibility to other camera systems outside of Canon and Nikon, we cannot speculate as to what would happen if you tried to use them together. So yes, you do run a risk in combining the two together.”

    Having said that, I think that your answer and their manual are more authoritative than what the RP rep sent me.

    Again, thanks so much…I’ll definitely be coming back to your site!

    Gabi from FL (USA)

  4. Damen Stephens says:

    If the new specs leaked by Panasonic USA are even remotely accurate the new Panasonics (G-2 and G-10) will be a bit disappointing – sure the G-2 has gained a video mode but it’s still AVCHD Lite, normal focal plane shutter, only 720(p) at 30 fps. Better than nothing, but very far from the revolutionary predictions about the GH-2. i have my fingers crossed …

  5. HI Gary.
    First let me say that I loveyour site! You haveignited an intense desire to explore the m4/3 system, and currently I am enamored of the new Panny G2. Despite what another poster said about the limited video capability, my main “focus” is still photography, not video, and so am more interested in whether the new Venus Enginre HR II will improve sharpness and noise reduction than that in the GF1, for example. I eagerly await some pro test results!
    Thanks again!

  6. Robert Melotte says:

    Hi Gary,

    I find your site most interesting and extremely informative.

    However, I have huge problems in trying to find an adaptor to fit the Panasonic GH1 as I would like to explore the possibilities of working with Canon or Olympus lenses.

    Would you be able to recommend what sort of adaptor would be most suitable for the GH1? I would very much appreciate your professional advice on this matter.

    Thanks again.


  7. admin says:

    Hi Robert, just do a search on Ebay – just make sure you don’t get an AF confirm adapter to mount on the GH-1 directly or via a Four Thirds – M43 adapter.

    If you also use Canon dSLRs, consider buying a Canon EOS to M43 adapter such as this one:

    and then either get an Olympus OM to EOS adapter so you can use your OM lenses on both your Canon and GH-1, or get a OM to M43 adapter such as this one:

    more info here: