The 1st 3 chapters of Khen Lim’s 10 chapter treatise on the history of the Micro Four Thirds system – now online

Written by Gary on October 4th, 2013

As promised, Khen Lim will be contributing to my photography wikipedia.

Here are the first 3 chapters of his incredibly detailed and insightful treatise on the history of mirrorless cameras and, in particular, the Micro Four Thirds system.

Click HERE to take you directly to the 1st chapter in which he describes the advent of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and how this will be a disruptive technology to the photographic industry as a whole.

My view of his line of thinking are as follows:

In 1990, no one would have believed that in a mere 10-15 years, film cameras would be almost totally replaced by digital cameras.

Digital photography was extremely disruptive and forced the closure of many well established companies, even taking down Kodak.

In the beginning of dSLRs, it made sense to create cropped sensor dSLRs ONLY because it was too expensive to create full frame dSLRs.

Cropped sensor dSLRs were clearly seen by both Canon and Nikon as a stop gap measure until the price of full frame sensors came down.

Canon and Nikon clearly demonstrated this by refusing to make high quality pro lenses designed for these cropped sensor dSLRs – only a few of the lenses were of high optical and build quality.

In 2000, few saw that smartphones would consume the low end point and shoot digital camera market – but this is exactly what is happening and many manufacturers are now substantially reducing their exposure to this market.

In 2008, few saw that the advent of mirrorless interchangeable lenses would again change the face of the photographic world, and led by Micro Four Thirds, they are certainly making their mark and over the next decade should consume the cropped sensor dSLR market.

The advances in EVF technology far outpace the advances being made in optical viewfinders, and have now reached a point where they are much more useful than optical for most situations.

These mirrorless cameras offer similar image quality and much more functionality in a smaller, lighter kit than a cropped sensor dSLR kit, and even areas led by dSLRs such as C-AF tracking will soon be completely overtaken by new technologies of dual AF sensor designs coupled with face recognition, etc.

Even now, Sony and Olympus appear to be teaming up to create a new mirrorless full frame system which will need a range of new lenses optimised for CDAF – this indeed will be interesting and very challenging for Canon and Nikon who have an extensive range of lenses but few if any will be optimised for the new technology of mirrorless full frame cameras.

I can’t wait to have bird facial recognition AF with electronic shutters at 40fps for truly awesome birding in 10 years time – this just won’t be possible on optical dSLR systems without resorting to clunky mirror lockup modes and the rear LCD screen. The global electronic shutter mode would not only be fully silent for wedding receptions, etc but potentially allow full output flash at all shutter speeds making over-powering the sun with flash units easy without having to resort to very powerful studio strobes with battery packs. A wedding photographer’s dream indeed!

I suspect also, that having mirrorless full frame system will not only be smaller and much, much quieter, but that they would design the lens flange distance so that many different types of lenses could be fitted, and just as with the E-M1, all would be image stabilised.  Affordable, through the lens live view Leica full frame with image stabilisation, focus peaking and live magnification .. hmmm… delicious indeed.

With mirrorless full frames eventually being more useful than full frame optical dSLRs for travel, fashion, weddings, sports, photojournalism and sheer fun of photography … where will optical dSLRs be … in cupboards like our film SLRs?

I wonder if the future in 15 years will be reduced to 3 main camera types:

  • waterproof, drop-proof smartphones
  • a middle of the road compact – and the best candidate for this is Micro Four Thirds as its lenses will always be smaller than APS-C sized mirrorless
  • full frame mirrorless cameras

Very interesting times indeed and there will be much gnashing of teeth by the losers and the winners will be grinners.
EM-5 compared to dSLRs

Olympus E-M5 size compared to the APS-C based Nikon D3100 with equivalent standard zoom lens fitted Image courtesy of


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