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What Are Micro Four Thirds Cameras?

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Find out what are the micro four thirds cameras.

As cameras shifted from film-based to digital, so are digital cameras evolving into something else to fill niches and interests among photographers. Recently, the micro four thirds camera standard, a new standard made well known by Panasonic and Olympus, are gradually populating the digital camera market. 

What are micro four thirds cameras?

The term micro four thirds derive its name from the four thirds system standard developed by Olympus and Kodak for digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera design and development. The four thirds system originates from the size of the image sensor used in cameras. This sensor type is commonly referred to as a 4/3" type or 4/3 type sensor with an imaging area of 17.3×13.0 mm (225 mm2). This imaging area is smaller than the 35 mm "full frame" sensor size of 36 x 24 mm (864 mm2) of high end digital cameras but nine times larger than the 1/2.5" sensor size of digital compact cameras (see Figure 1). Larger sensors are associated with better picture clarity. 

relative size of image sensors

Fig. 1. Relative sizes of imaging sensors (Image Source)

What distinguishes four thirds cameras from micro four thirds cameras?

The only difference between four thirds and micro four thirds cameras is that the latter does not use a mirror box to enable the photographer to have a peek at what he wants to photograph. Instead, it uses an electronic live view finder or LVF. Due to the lack of a mirror box, the micro four thirds cameras are also referred to as EVIL cameras. Micro four thirds cameras, thus, reduce the bulk associated with digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras due to the mirror box and other mechanisms like dust reduction mechanism and low pass filter. 

What are the advantages of micro four thirds cameras?

Doing away with the mirror and replacing it with an electronic one enables micro four thirds camera manufacturers to reduce the size of lenses making the camera much more compact without losing picture quality achieved using the four thirds sensor size. The micro four thirds camera, therefore, is much lighter and less showy (except when using tele zoom lens) than the conventional digital single lens reflex cameras. It takes advantage of the portability of compact cameras while making possible the interchange of lenses for more flexibility in taking pictures.

Aside from this portability or size-associated advantage, the other advantages of micro four thirds cameras are the following:

  1. smaller flange distance allows for easier manufacture of wide lenses.
  2. greater depth-of-field.
  3. allows real-time preview of exposure, white balance and tone.
  4. the viewfinder can zoom into one's preview which is not possible for a mirror-based system.
  5. quiet operation for lack of a flipping mirror.
  6. the viewfinder could be adjusted to match one's eyesight.

See the articles below for examples of pictures taken using a Panasonic Lumix DMC G10, a micro four thirds camera.




©2011 December 10 Patrick A. Regoniel


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Patrick Regoniel

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