Micro Four Thirds

13 April 2010 10:00:00 AM AEST

When people want to evoke the Grand Prix they talk about the noise.  As one who lives in the premier city of the Australian nanny state - where thugs with knives are unheard of and the impeccable public transport system doesn’t hold even an air of public menace - I can vouch for the racket.  I can also vouch for a pain in the neck carrying my camera bag  around the track, testing out the Nikon 70 - 300mm VR, all day.

A couple of lenses, a body, maybe a flash on any given trip and suddenly the whine isn’t Mark Webber’s social commentary but your own spine creaking as you head out the door.

Hence the appeal of the following models: the Olympus E-PL1Panasonic G2 and GF1.  The idea is right: small and light like a compact but with interchangeable lenses and the image quality and manual control of a DSLR.

The Canon G series, currently represented by the G12, has held a long appeal to enthusiast photographers because it offered most of the regular adjustable commands (ISO, White Balance, Exposure Compensation) and a viewfinder in a small(ish) design.  As excellent as the G series has been, the tiny imaging sensors inside have always been a considerable restriction and left images prey to the faults that plague lesser compacts such as poor low light and night shots or slow shutter response to moving subjects.   The Micro Four Third cameras mentioned above seek to solve this dilemma through having an imaging sensor ten times as large as a compact, although smaller than a standard DSLR, to produce higher quality images. Imaging sensor size is a very important factor to do this.

To a large degree, the cameras succeed.  These stable of cameras provide excellent image quality.  They excel as travel and landscape cameras in a small body.  Anyone trudging through the streets of a foreign city will appreciate the lighter load to carry and becoming less conspicuous  in a crowd.  Their ideal market is the traveler.  It is not, however, the sports shooter or the parent.  As yet, the Micro Four Thirds cameras do not have the operational speed of a DSLR and hence are not ideal for subjects that move fast, like my nephews, or a bit slower, like Mark Webber. 

DSLR’s are by no means dead: they have better battery life, more lens options, optical viewfinders, faster responses and higher frame rates but the appeal of the Micro Four Third cameras is high, and growing. What is curious is as yet  the two big players in the DSLR market, Canon and Nikon, do not have a model in this category.  But it won’t be long because there is plenty of us who want better performance than a compact can deliver  but don’t want to work up a sweat every time we take a picture.  It won’t help me, unfortunately, because for the foreseeable future I will need my trusty DSLR at the next Grand Prix - that is, if the Government lets me go.

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