ps.. as usual, the links below take you to my wiki pages for more information – NOT to annoying online retail sites as with most other blogs!
The Micro Four Thirds system has come a long way since its introduction in 2008 with the Panasonic G1 and soon after the very popular Panasonic GH-1 which changed the video world.
A major advance was the introduction of the Olympus OM-D series starting with the Olympus E-M5 in early 2012 which brought together most of the missing elements:
- a nice built in electronic viewfinder
- 5 axis sensor based image stabilisation
- a new sensor with much higher image quality to satisfy the needs of most people
- a tilting rear touch screen which could be used to rapidly AF on a given selected subject and then immediately take the photo
- the 1st camera to be able to automatically AF on the subject’s closest eye
- the fastest and most accurate AF for static subjects available
- a range of lovely compact, wide aperture high quality prime lenses
Then in 2016, this was taken a major step forward with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II which addressed the main concerns with the E-M5’s poor AF of moving subjects and added a vast range of new functionality – particularly to address sports and wildlife photography, further improved image quality, added an improved and very nice hand held 4K video capability, and a range of weathersealed wide aperture prime lenses as well as the holy trinity f/2.8 zoom lenses plus the much loved and unique 12-100mm f/4 pro-level travel lens.
Incompatibility issues which I wish Olympus and Panasonic would resolve:
Whilst I can understand that creating incompatibilities is a way for companies to hold their user base to ransom and force them to continue to buy their products only, this is extremely frustrating for users and does take away from the system experience and may turn many away.
This is what they need to resolve:
- Olympus or Panasonic cameras able to used Sync IS / Dual IS on any Olympus or Panasonic lens with optical IS – currently if you mix systems you have to choose sensor based IS or optical IS and you miss out on the combined capability.
- Panasonic cameras able to use Olympus lenses with their DFD technology for faster AF – this appears to just need updating of the camera firmware with Olympus lens data
- Olympus cameras able to use the aperture ring on the Panasonic lenses which have it
- Olympus Pro-Capture mode able to use Panasonic lenses
- Ananda Sim has reminded me of two other variances:
- the UV cutoff filters on the sensors differ such that Olympus cameras allow more UV and hence display more purple fringing when used with certain Panasonic lenses than is evident on Panasonic cameras with these lenses – see this article by Alan Forster.
- Olympus cameras manage the lens diaphragm differently during live view as to Panasonic cameras – this can create noise lens use (as with the Panasonic Leica DG 25mm f/1.4 lens) or possibly reduced burst rates with Panasonic lenses.
Firmware improvements to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:
Here are some of my wishes:
- a more intuitive way to dial in distances for the in-camera focus limit settings – can’t we just select closest distance, then point the camera at the closest object we want, lock focus and it is recorded, likewise with the most distant setting?
- add option for artificial shutter noise so subject knows when you have taken the shot
- faster start up time
- make the autoISO more powerful by adding ability to set the auto ISO default slowest shutter speed to (image stabilisation effectiveness in EV / focal length) x user EV setting
- the Olympus default is 1/focal length which doesn’t allow the user to utilise the image stabilisation capabilities to its full effect and doesn’t even take into account the 2x crop factor effect
- having a user EV setting as a user variable allows the user to take control of how much they trust the IS and their hand holding skills
- add a AF region of perhaps 15 to give a larger region – the jump from all areas down to 9 is too large a jump
- further improve AF speed with legacy Four Thirds lenses
- add a 3rd option, “last viewed” to the cogs:H1:Card Slot Settings:Playback Slot so that one does not have to dig deep into the menu to keep your playback slot preference
- playback zoom should have an option to view the RAW file rather than a small jpeg if only a single card is used for RAW+jpeg – this is problematic at zoom 7x or more when you want to verify sharpness if the card you are viewing does not have a large jpeg stored (eg. you are only shooting in RAW mode)
- add an option to adjust the time to return to normal view when MF Assist is automatically activated and you stop rotating MF ring – currently it is too short for my liking and does not give enough time to to assess focus accuracy hence I assign a button for this.
New cameras in 2018:
I do not anticipate Olympus will be replacing the E-M1 Mark II any time soon – it took them 3 years to update the Mark I version – so that would put a replacement in late 2019.
The Olympus Pen F is now 2 years old and due for an update.
PLEASE Olympus, add PDAF capability (or at least Panasonic’s DFD technology) to ALL next model OM-D and PEN cameras so all users can have a better user experience trying to focus on moving subjects – restricting this capability to the E-M1’s is counter-productive to marketing of the system and turns potential buyers away and across to Panasonic, Sony or, heaven forbid, a cheap and nasty dSLR.
I think as a minimum they should aim to ensure the Pen F Mark II and E-M5 Mark III both have PDAF technology.
From the Panasonic stable, their awesome new Panasonic G9 is still yet to hit our shores and will give the Olympus E-M1 Mark II a run for its money although we are yet to see how well its DFD will compare with the Olympus PDAF when using the lenses such as the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 for sports.
The Panasonic GH-5 is also not likely to be replaced in 2018 as it was only released in early 2017.
I would like to see a Micro Four Thirds camera similar to the Sony A7S II in that it has much improved high ISO capability at the expense of fewer pixels – the rumored Panasonic GH5 S will probably be this camera!
New lenses for 2018:
2017 was the year of the f/1.2 weathersealed Olympus primes of which the 17mm and 45mm will finally be available this month hopefully:
#1. a weathersealed, wider aperture version of the awesome Olympus 75mm f/1.8
- given that Olympus as created f/1.2 versions of the 17mm, 25mm and 45mm f/1.8 lenses, it makes sense that a telephoto prime is next on their list – I would be very happy with a 60mm f/1.2 and perhaps a 100mm f/1.4
#2. a weathersealed wide aperture 200mm lens which is smaller and lighter than the Panasonic version
- I was excited to hear Panasonic announce its 200mm f/2.8 lens as I have wanted one for sports and the loss of 1 stop and a little image quality when adding a 1.4x teleconverter to the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens is not ideal.
- HOWEVER, I was not happy that at over 1.2kg, it weighed about the same as my awesome Olympus 300mm f/4 and cost even more!
- If Canon and Nikon can create a full frame 200mm f/2.8 lens that weighs only 765g, surely Olympus can get their version to well under 1kg!
#3. a weathersealed wide aperture ultra wide lens with minimal coma for Milky Way astroscapes
- currently I use the fantastic little Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye for my astroscapes as the ultra wide angle allows longer exposure times without noticeable star trailing and the f/1.8 aperture allows lower ISO.
- however, a 7mm or 8mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 lens which is not a fisheye will please many people in the very popular genre of Milky Way astroscapes as long as there is minimal aberrations wide open – full frame users have 14mm f/2.4 lenses to play with – it would be nice to have something similar in function for Micro Four Thirds but it would need a reasonable pricing – hence even if this was a manual focus lens to save costs that would be fine.
#4. the already planned Panasonic 50-200mm f/2.8-4 OIS lens
- back in the days of Four Thirds, I loved the imagery and capabilities of my Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens BUT it was big, and even bigger when extended out during zooming, and the AF is not up to scratch when used with Micro Four Thirds lenses, thus I now use the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens as perhaps my most used general purpose lens now – the Panasonic version will not entice me but will address the needs of Panasonic users who can’t use the Olympus lens to its fullest – no DFD and no Sync IS on Panasonic cameras.
#5. more pro level super telephoto lenses
- one of the key benefits of Micro Four Thirds over full frame is portability and hand holdability with telephoto lenses and the cost-benefits of this improved telephoto reach means less backache, neck strain, far less hip pocket expenses and more easy airline travel.
- the Olympus 300mm f/4 was a fantastic first step and the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 will also provide a valuable option
- Olympus has filed patents for other lenses such as:
- Olympus 300-500mm f/2.8-4.0
- Olympus 400mm f/4
- Olympus 400mm f/5.6
- Olympus 500mm f/4
#6. a telephoto macro lens
- currently, the longest macro is the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro
- I would expect at some stage Olympus will produce a longer macro for nature work such as a weathersealed, light, 100mm f/4 macro
Improved cross-platform radio TTL remote flash capabilities
2017 was a ground breaking year in radio TTL remote flash in the photographic world – not just for Micro Four Thirds users.
Cactus introduced various firmware updates to the Cactus V6II transceivers which allowed most camera brands to have radio TTL remote control with optional high speed sync, remote zoom control, and remote manual flash output of Canon, Nikon, or Olympus/Panasonic flashes. In 2018, this firmware should extend to Canon and Nikon cameras, then hopefully they can amalgamate the firmwares to avoid the need of changing firmware when you use a different camera brand, and then they can work on fixing all the bugs.
Godox also introduced their cross-platform Godox X1 transceivers allowing most camera brands to have radio TTL remote control with optional high speed sync, remote zoom control, and remote manual flash output of Godox speedlights and portable battery powered studio lights, or other brand flashes if used with a Godox receiver. I expect they will release a PRO version of their X1 transmitter designed for Micro Four Thirds in 2018.
We no longer have to wait for Olympus and Panasonic to develop radio TTL flash capability – we have it already via Cactus or Godox – and even better that what individual camera companies such as Canon or Nikon are providing in that it is cross-platform – brilliant if you use more than one camera system as I do!